Thursday, 28 February 2013

#One Week - Winter '13 - Cold End

What I wanted was a slow, reflective winter, one of calm and stillness. A season where I could stand back and appreciate the things around me - sit bundled up, cosy, on a sofa, sinking into a good book, and a warming mug of cocoa.

What I got was anything but, and actually #oneweek this winter has been a challenge, I've hardly had chance to stand still. I've barely noticed the snow flurries. But I have felt the cold.

And at times I've lacked  the inspiration to get out and about - winter isn't my favourite season.


The last few months have been swallowed by the move - selling our flat, buying a new home, and not forgetting, the accident. Now we have the task of clearing and boxing. Contracts are set to exchange middle of March with a moving date - fingers crossed - during the first week of April.

But it has been a time for gathering ideas, and writing - lots of writing. I've made a promising start on my first novel, Four Gigs, and have begun a new blog - I'm completely insane - to help track my progress, or is that just a canny ruse for procrastination? Younger Dad has accurately observed that blogging is 'my new job'. I'm writing everyday, and I guess I'm really beginning to feel like I am a writer, a proper one. I've even booked a one day writing retreat in the East End on 10th March. Yes, that's Mothers Day, so I wanted to hole myself away somewhere quiet and do what I love the most - apart from being a mummy - writing...

And there's a lot to feel positive about my blog at the moment. It was short listed as a blog to watch in 2013 by A New Generation, and nominated in the MADS - delightful compliments!


The other day I was strolling in the park, Little A gliding ahead of me on her scooter, when I came across a blanket of yellow and purple crocuses, a reminder that spring is only weeks away. Or is it? Come March, a tug of war will commence between winter and spring - last year winter emerged the decisive victor. But the shoots are here, the daffodils early....



....oh spring, you are such a tease.


This is the final day of the seasonal linky One Week. I wanted to say a big, big thank you to all those lovely bloggers who joined in, and those who commented, and tweeted, in support of this project.

One Week will return this spring for another five days, 3 - 7 June. So get your cameras at the ready and imaginative hats on!

For more details about One Week, take a gander here. You can join in for one, two ... or the full five days...


Badge Code ...

<a href="http://older-mum.blogspot.co.uk/p/one-week.html" title="One Week"><img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8436/7807711152_5f912c7903_m.jpg" width="225" height="169" alt="one week" /></a>

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

#One Week - Winter '13 - English Beauty

The other week I watched one of my favourite films, American Beauty. It doesn't matter how many times I watch this film, it always has the same impact on me. I remember, aged twenty-nine, sitting in the darkness of the Barbican theatre with my best friend, H, profoundly captivated by one of the most beautiful scenes in cinema.

It's the scene where Ricky, the compulsive film diarist, shows Janey - his new girlfriend - the most perfect thing he's ever seen; a plastic bag dancing in the wind, whirling amidst tossing leaves.

Every time I watch this moment, my soul both sings and cries. It's actually hard to describe the way this scene makes me feel, but the combination of words and music lifts me from the mundane into the very heart of truth. And there are always tears. Always.

And it's the scene where Ricky's character is transformed from superficial weirdo into poetic observer of life....


....and his words are so sublimely compelling;
"It was one of those days, when it's a minute away from snowing. And there was this electricity in the air. You could almost hear it. And this bag was just .... dancing ....with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. That was the day when I realised that there was this .... entire life.... behind things. And this incredibly benevolent force who wanted me to know that there was no reason to be afraid. Ever.
Sometimes there is so much .... beauty .... in the world. It's like I can't take it. And my heart is just going to cave in."

Sometimes, I can't contain the grace that lies inside.

Sometimes, it's so unbearably beautiful, it's painful.

Do I deserve her?

The way she puckers her mouth against my cheek. The way her arms wrap around my neck like I'm the last person on earth. The way her eyes shine at my smile. How she forgives my mistakes. How she trusts everything I say and do. How she's so happy I'm her mum.

My English Beauty. Her love releases me and kills me at the same time.

Then I remember to breathe and savour every precious drop.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once and it's too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst. And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold onto it. And then it flows through me, like rain. And I can't feel anything but gratitude."   
Lester Burnham's final thoughts - American Beauty. 
And here is the plastic bag scene I love so much...


This is the fourth day of the seasonal linky One Week. Until Friday, I'll be posting a photograph(s) and a few words that diarises and distills my experience of autumn'12. Take a peep at the details here. You can join in for one, two ... or the full five days. And don't forget to add #oneweek on Twitter, and comment on each others posts...


Badge Code ...

<a href="http://older-mum.blogspot.co.uk/p/one-week.html" title="One Week"><img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8436/7807711152_5f912c7903_m.jpg" width="225" height="169" alt="one week" /></a>

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

#One Week - Winter '13 - Individual

Winter is such an individual. No one does it like her...

Trees that stand alone like forgotten soldiers. Buds frozen, waiting in line. The earth exposed.

There's no enmeshment of leaves and life.

I've never really considered December a part of the cold one, there's too much anticipation of candles, and wrapping paper, and mulled wine.

Then January arrives, stark with anti-climax.


But if you look closer, then closer still, there are details and clues in the drab and the dreary.

Branches that point like compass points - the new year, full of direction.

There's emerald green holly, coloured glass impressed on painted bark, a friendless pink flower that shouts, "oi, over 'ere mate, c'mon look at me!"

There's yeti prints in snow, icicles like daggers, and feathery frost on dried leaves and pointed shoots.


And then there's an exposed tree trunk - a kind of park totem - that's wrapped in glazed papier mache rings, each one a committed memory of a political hero or an ornament to the dead. 

I realise there are rings both inside and outside the bark. I wonder how much longer the external bands will age before disintegrating into paper flakes, carried on a whisper in the air. Of course the tree won't notice, will carry on regardless.  


Winter the individual, just like my daughter, who's decided she'd prefer to address her parents by their first names instead of mummy and daddy. I don't quite know how I feel about this. And I've had a few raised brows from friends, 'she calls you by your name?'

I've tried to persuade Little A otherwise but to no avail. It's first names only.

But I've convinced myself there's something quite radical, quite liberating about being addressed by my name. It releases me from the narrow confines of 'mummy' - I'm a whole person and my daughter's friend. Our bond is loosened, made flexible, creating, for me, a healthy respect for our separateness. 

Still, I blame Little A's rebellion on the winter, the season of her birth, and that she's an Aquarian -  independent to a fault.

Please call me mummy. Please. 


This is the third day of the seasonal linky One Week. Over the next few days (until Friday) I'll be posting a photograph(s) and a few words that diarises and distills my experience of winter '13. Take a peep at the details here. You can join in for one, two ... or the full five days. And don't forget to add #oneweek on Twitter, and comment on each others posts...


Badge Code ...

<a href="http://older-mum.blogspot.co.uk/p/one-week.html" title="One Week"><img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8436/7807711152_5f912c7903_m.jpg" width="225" height="169" alt="one week" /></a>

Monday, 25 February 2013

#One Week - Winter '13 - Departure

Winter.... I'm not so sure.

The dark. The cold. The emptiness.

No bird song.

Just silence.


But then...

The outlines. The silhouettes. The mystery.

The honesty. The reassurance. The solidity.

Raw, frozen earth.

Stripped away. Bare.

A love letter to the underworld.

A hug with death.


Little A asks, "what does passed away mean?"

A neighbour has just informed us about the departure of the old boy two doors down. 
He was 92. Taken by hypothermia. 
Known to all on our street. Full of stories and history. 
Independent until the winter claimed him.

"It means he's stopped working. There's another word for it - to die...
 when we get very, very old, we die, we stop working."

"Will you stop working?"

"One day when I'm very old." 

"Will I stop working?"

"One day when you are very, very, very old."

"I don't want to stop working mummy." 

"I know darling, I know."  


This was not a conversation I wanted to have on the way to nursery. 

I wasn't ready.

But Little A was. She accepted it, as children do. 

Winter forces the truth.

We cannot deny it. 


This is the second day of the seasonal linky One Week. Over the next few days (until Friday) I'll be posting a photograph(s) and a few words that diarises and distills my experience of winter '13. Take a peep at the details here. You can join in for one, two ... or the full five days. And don't forget to add #oneweek on Twitter, and comment on each others posts...


Badge Code ...

<a href="http://older-mum.blogspot.co.uk/p/one-week.html" title="One Week"><img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8436/7807711152_5f912c7903_m.jpg" width="225" height="169" alt="one week" /></a>

Sunday, 24 February 2013

#One Week - Winter '13 - Park Life (the wait)



Where's our bench, the wobbly bench?

They've dug it up and tossed it away.

The wobbly bench was our special place, where we ate mini croissants and mango slices, and told stories, and played Piggy (me) and Bunny (Little A).

No more.

They closed our local playground for refurbishment at the beginning of November. Four weeks we were told. But it was still out of bounds beginning of January, covered in soil and lonely looking rides.


So what did we do?

We played outside of the playground of course! In the park itself.

"Mummy shark, look at me, weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee."

"Baby shark you're going very fast on that scooter." 

"Yes, cos I'm a big girl now."

Round and around she goes.

"Can I take a photo?"

"Stop that mummy shark, I'm scootering."

And the week it snowed, we padded through untouched snow as fine as powder, throwing snow balls, playing chase, as icy flakes landed atop coated shoulders and woolly hats.   


And then one day they came....

Jacketed men who laid down turf, attached new rides, rolled out hot, sticky tarmac, made grassy mounds from the earth that had been dug up, scattered wood chips, planted strange wispy things in the new flower beds that look like floppy spider legs, and....

Returned the park benches.

"Mummy shark look.... there's new swings, and slides, and look, it's daddy car, and baby car, and the seesaw." 


Finally on 15th February, the big mesh barriers were taken away, and our playground reopened.

We tested the benches.

Neither wobble.


This is the first day of the seasonal linky One Week. Over the next five days (Monday till Friday) I'll be posting a photograph(s) and a few words that diarises and distills my experience of winter '13. Take a peep at the details here. You can join in for one, two ... or the full five days. And don't forget to add #oneweek on Twitter, and comment on each others posts...


Badge Code ...

<a href="http://older-mum.blogspot.co.uk/p/one-week.html" title="One Week"><img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8436/7807711152_5f912c7903_m.jpg" width="225" height="169" alt="one week" /></a>

Friday, 15 February 2013

The Drill

Every night the whole thing simply drags on and on, minutes extending, rolling into essential blogging time with yet more demands, more requests. Sometimes there's no foreseeable finish line, no slices of orange at the end of a vertical climb, no free pass through the bedroom door, until she's past out, finally stolen by sleep.

I made a thirteen point picture plan artfully illustrated with hand drawn symbols on yellow card -complimented with stars, and hearts, and triangles - for each stage, so that she'd unequivocally understand the drill...

1. Rubber Duck. (bath time).  Little A often plays with Lucy, her blue kitchen fork, whisking up a frothy froth of pretend hot chocolate in a bright orange beaker. She will empty the entire contents of her bath bucket into the foam; ducks, boats, crocodiles, whales, colliding, struggling to keep afloat - it's like the aftermath of titanic, except the water's warmer.

"It's time to wash your hair and face Little A."

"No thank you mummy, you can do it tomorrow instead."

"Little A.....?"

"T.O.M.O.R.R.O.W. I.N.S.T.E.A.D."

<sigh>

2. Grow Bag. (nappy, pyjamas, grow bag). But all of a sudden I have a little fairy on my hands fluttering and dancing as nature intended with a pair of blue wings and flashing wand.

"I need to do magic and running first mummy."

<sigh><sigh>

3. Toothbrush. (brushing teeth). On account of the challenge of brushing those threenager molars, we have three toothbrushes, offering *ahem* choice and partial control. There's Tina Toothbrush (pink and yellow), Timmy Toothbrush (blue), and Tuber Toothbrush (green and blue). Little A keeps her family of denture polishers in a Gruffalo bath bag that's hidden away in her Gruffalo Trunki, which, as a matter of fact, I won for this. Every evening, I head a solemn procession to the bathroom with Little A and Trunki, shuffling and rolling behind. What follows is an exact order of unlock-open-unzip-choose toothbrush-apply toothpaste-open wide-wider-brush-teeth together-brush-good girl-rinse-zip up-close-lock....

"Choose which one please."

"I want Timmy."

"Okay."

"No, Tuber... no mummy... I want... I want Tina."

<getting impatient>

4. Teddy Bear. (the good night teddy song). This is my favourite bedtime ritual. We veil Little A's kingdom of teddies, dollies, fluffy cuddlies - dumped on the teddy bench - with a red blanket while heartily singing the following verse....
Good night teddies - Good night teddies - Good night teddies, 
We've had a happy day
Hooray
Good night teddies - Good night teddies - Good night teddies, 
We've had a happy day
We've had a happ-eee day
Hip hip hooray
<a calm, charming interlude>

5. Book. (story time). She has one story but somehow manages to flick through the entire book again when I've made it firmly, but kindly clear, it's three pages only. Maybe I should refrain from checking the inbox on my phone.

<annoyed at myself>

6. Dog. (kiss Truffles good night) Truffles is a big, shaggy dog flopped on newly washed carpet at the head end of Little A's cot (yes, she's still behind bars - I'm working on it). She sleeps with a furry ear - yanked lovingly through the cot bars - in her left hand. Don't think the dog appreciates this.

<why is this part of the routine? she goes to kiss Truffles, returning to me on the futon, ergo moving in the wrong direction of the cot.>

7. Mother and child embracing. (cuddle time). (a) Sitting down cuddle - Little A will oft explore my nostrils, kneed my cheeks like stiff dough, and ruthlessly observe my teeth as dirty and yellow. (b) Standing up cuddle where my forehead and chin are raspberried and licked by a pudgy tongue.

<tired - i'm not a fan of saliva>  

8. Child behind bars. (in the cot). I.N. T.H.E. C.O.T.

< at last, nearly at the end>

9. Light switch. (lights out). First, I turn the light out. Then it's Little A's turn with either Doggy, Monkey, or Teal - a rag doll - tucked under her arm.

"Mummy, can you turn the torch on? Just one time?"

"Little A, that's not part of the routine. Light's out."

"I can't see..."

"Don't worry, your eyes will get used to it."

<it's so dark, where's the cot...bump> 

10. Book. (mummy's story) This is where I play Jack-a-nory, telling Little A a home grown tale. It's her choice.... and it could be Little A and the Octonauts; Little A and the Mermaid; Little A and the Octonauts and the Mermaid; the Dragon visits nursery; Little A, Mummy, Lucy - the fork - and the Dragon fly to Chiswick; Little A and Abney and Teal.....

<ooooh, this is fun, but keep it short, keep it short>      

11. Toilet. (a trip to the lavatory). A quick sit on the throne while I check my phone.

<like the appendix, the black and white TV, and Truffles, there is no definable use for this - it doesn't add anything to the routine, save to see if I have any comments>

12. Hand On Child's Back. (gentle back). A back rub, affectionately known as gentle back - for her highness, followed by a cuddle, and a few sips of water.

<hang in there, it's nearly over>  

13. Moon and Stars. (sweet everythings). Our final parting gesture as I stand, staring into freedom, from her bedroom door....
Night night by far, 
Sweet dreams by far
I love you
I love you to the moon and stars and back again
And I will see you in the morning
Night night by far
Sweet dreams by far
Love you - night night.
  .... and she repeats every line after me - heart meltingly wonderful.

<huzzah, laptop here I come> 

Only, not quite, as here's what usually happens next.....

More gentle back, want a cuddle, want some water; spilt the water mummy - I need a new grow bag, done a poo, need more water, can't get to sleep, want a kiss, done another poo, want to start all over again (the routine), not ready to say night-night by far, want another cuddle, more water, just one more time....   

... and the tears and tantrums as boundaries are reluctantly reset.

But like the British winter she persists, and persists, and persists.

How long is your bedtime routine?
How do you manage with two or more children?

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

100 Word Challenge - A Beautiful Day

"And what could you have done? Nothing."

"I just feel...."

"No Char, don't, don't blame yourself."

The paper said suspected suicide. Was it a helping hand instead? A whip of icy air found the base of my hair line.

"So you saw this guy moving towards him?"

"Yeah. He was right there when David disappeared. I just know it."

'It's a Beautiful Day' reverberated around the crematorium walls.

"Oh my goodness!" Charlotte panicked, "I nearly forgot - the funeral."

I led my friend back inside, back to our vacant seats.

Then something caught my eye - two characters set apart from the mourners...


I'm linking up with JB47's 100 Word Challenge. This week's prompt was... Oh my goodness. I nearly forgot...


This is part of a wider story. You can read the other instalments in the series here.



Thursday, 7 February 2013

Birth Day

It's been three years, and it still rattles the outlines of my being.

I thought by now, this day would pass without sharp memory or ruffling emotion.

But the end of January still drags a well trodden carpet of interference and fear.


It's Little A's birthday party...

...She's running around waving a sausage balloon, dancing among wandering bubbles, tearing in and out of pint-sized friends. I wish I could jump into her moment of joy, abandon myself in the thrills of the three year old before me.

But my awareness is pulled by the rough edges of anxiety. I worry about the noise of the bouncy castle. I fret over the timings of the entertainment, the arrival of the sandwiches. Has the cake been plated? Are the party bags ready? But my uneasiness doesn't belong to the detail of this playful gathering but to the images, like battle hungry soldiers, taking position in my mind.

The party-goers stand in a circle. Every little hand holds onto the thin nylon sheet. They lift it above their heads, and with gentle wafting, send delicate ripples through the red parachute.

Waves of intense pain, breaking forcefully on vertebrae, prove too much. The consultant makes her final decision - a c-section must be performed without delay.

An entertainer performs a magic trick. A stream of silliness fired. In soft hair. On accepting finger tips.

The trolley hurtles through double doors. She's going to die. She's going to die. She's going to die. The room is white, sterile. A green curtain divides my limp body into two zones; the operated half, the terrified half.

Little A waits in anticipation. Candles are lit and a large, rectangular cake is placed before a beaming face. Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear....

On the table, a knife cuts through the soft sponge of vanilla flesh, sending a deep voltage of shock through every cell.

For she's a jolly good fellow, for she's a jolly good fellow, for she's a jolly good fell-ell-ow. And so say all of us...

The magic is performed to an unwanted lyrical backdrop of the Fugees, Killing Me Softly - a blue floppy baby, conjured from a fissured belly.  

There's a pile of presents wrapped in pinks and yellows and greens; 'Mummy, mummy can I open them now?' 'Wait till we get home sweat heart.' It's been a jubilant celebration. A grand success.    

I leave with a party bag of shallow breath. Of anger. Of shame. Of intrusive visions where rats carry my baby away or she burns in a pit of fire. Of an alien scar etched on once familiar skin. Of a removal van that relocates me far from the visceral urges of the body into the cerebral detachment of the mind. Of fear. Of anxiety. Of sadness.     

But it's not so bad now, the trauma, I understand that the visual intruders were birthed from one stark thought, she's going to die. And of course, she didn't. And I didn't. But it's taking time to rediscover the physical, to play in my body again.

Happy birthday Little A.

The cut, the shock, and the wounding, were all worth the privilege of having you in our lives.

A lovely person(s) has voted Older Mum in a Muddle for Blog of the Year and Best Writer in the MADS Awards. Thank you very, very much. It's wonderful to feel appreciated. And if you are feeling in a generous mood today, please vote for me in the The Best Writer category or Blog of The Year if you feel my musings qualify. 

Monday, 4 February 2013

100 Word Challenge - Pushed

"There? On the platform?" I'd barely absorbed Charlotte's words.

Charlotte was there, the day it happened.

"I was in the middle - it was so packed - I saw his head." A sharp inhale. "He was stood right at the edge, I tried to move forwards but no one was budging. There was this person - a bloke I think - edging through towards him. He got close, there was this sudden swell, and then David wasn't there, and then the screaming, the screaming..."

Charlotte's hands covered her ears. Beneath the surface, I saw the scolding bubbles of self reproach.

"Char, this wasn't your fault."

"Chrissy, I should have done something!"


I'm linking up with JB47's 100 Word Challenge. This week's prompt was... Beneath the surface ...


This is part of a wider story. You can read the other instalments in the series here.



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