Thursday, 29 March 2012

#Once upon a time - I Was A DJ.

Once upon a time .....

I stood in a DJ booth weaving a musical story to hundreds and sometimes thousands of punters on a pair of technics 1210's. Sometimes I went to work at 10.00 pm, sometimes at 2.00 am or sometimes even at 4.00 am. My office was a dark subterranean chamber impregnated with hypnotic rhythms, pounding bass and punctuated by a kaleidoscope of swirling illuminations, and the camera flashing winks of a dazzling strobe. Before me a swarming throng of misshapen silhouettes hugging, dancing, whooping, gyrating.  Arms swaying like seaweed at high tide or fists joyously punching the air as if a favourite team had scored a hat trick. Hands transformed into angular fish like shapes that carved out intertwining forms in the energetic pulse of the club atmosphere. A flowing togetherness. A community of loved up glowing clubbers sharing the same experience; MUSIC.

This was acid house. A nation of post indie rockers had finally learnt to dance.

It was no accident I became a DJ. I'd always loved music and made mix tapes for friends. I'd gravitated to boyfriends in bands. The arrival of acid house in '88 prised me away from my indie rock credentials and opened my eyes to unadulterated rhythm. And I was a 'keen member' of the, wait for it, Rave Society at University. It goes without saying that I didn't study very much in my third year.

Then I turned 21 and threw my savings and birthday money on a pair of technics record decks which in '92 didn't come cheap. It took me a while to master blending the beats of two records together. The moment I finally accomplished this nimble fingered skill sent a fated lightening bolt down my spine. Intuitively, I knew in the depths of my bones that DJ'ing was my life calling. Destiny.

My DJ moniker was Tantra.

And so it began. My singular vision to become a professional DJ sent a synchronistic wheel in motion attracting a belly full of opportunity; I met other DJ's, played at numerous house parties, and then I landed my first residency on a local pirate radio station. Tantra's dulcet tones transmitted on the airwaves of West Yorkshire but I wisely let the grooves do the talking. Mix tapes went out, club promoters bugged and DJ agencies joined. My first club gig was a night in Liverpool - I rocked it.

I was in the right place at the right time. I was in a minority; a talented female DJ, and I milked this for all its worth. My career snowballed as I played in clubs across the UK and Europe. My music of choice was deep house and techno; everything from Kraftwerk inspired European trance to the disco influenced, funk infused minimalism of Detroit electronica. I built a solid reputation for long, seamless mixes and emotive sets which undulated in musical style, tone and pace.

I spent my weeks making hallowed pilgrimages to record shops. My favourite was Eastern Bloc Records in Manchester. The boys there were great. An assorted pile of 12"s always greeted me when I eagerly rushed through the doors every Wednesday morning. I ate vinyl. I was what was affectionately termed as an anorak. I had a record collection of 1000's organised meticulously into different genres, labels and artists.

The memories are myriad ...

The comforting aromas wafting from Parisian bakeries at 6.00 am as weary street sweepers cleared the detritus from the night before. Racing precariously through a pot holed field on a bear hunt for the location of a very secret party. Bottle green dragon flies on a Southern French hill top hovering unnoticed over bobbing heads, and brightly painted faces in the soft light of dawn.

I played in a bunker in East Germany. I played on a moving float at the Zurich Love Parade; the streets overflowing with dancing, cheering, empty beer cans. I once played a gig in Germany on Christmas day - I can recall the eerie desertion of Manchester airport, the festive dish of rare beef and sauerkraut with the club promoter and her father. The strangest gig was an outdoor rave at 8.00 am. Can you imagine having breakfast and then spinning your best vinyl to, by that time of day, a hoard of messy, unappreciative clubbers? My biggest event was spinning a nerve wracking opening set to 20,000 ravers in Germany. That was a buzz on every level. But my favourite gigs were the homegrown ones, the smaller clubs, and playing to my friends.

And then one year it all crumbled. I met HIM. Not Younger Dad. But a rotten apple. An apocalyptic messenger of heartbreaking change. When I resurfaced a year or so later I found myself at the back end of my twenties with a withering career. Like parched paper evaporating in a flame, the European gigs shrivelled up. I was past my shelf life.

I moved to London. I worked in a grey office somewhere in Aldgate. I tried to revive my career and continued playing at a few select clubs here and there. I even promoted my own night. Then one day, somewhere in my mid thirties, I decided that enough was enough. I'd lost interest in late nights, parties and the must have release. It was time for something new. So I settled back and let life's compass point me in a fresh direction.

I treasure the fun times I had, the friends I met and the cultures I tasted. But I still live with a small handful of sadness. Where would I have been if I hadn't met HIM? But then life seems to have a mysterious trajectory for all of us. Its only when we look back that we can clearly see the road map that led us to this particular point. One thing I can confidently say is that if I'd carried on DJ'ing I wouldn't have met Younger Dad or held Little A in my arms. This is how it was meant to be ..... in the end I was intended for motherhood.

One day I will be able to regale Little A with all my turntable adventures.

Once upon a time her mummy was a cool DJ.

So once upon a time, what did you enjoy (or dislike) doing, seeing or creating? It could be anything. What were you like many moons ago? Do you have a once upon a time story to tell or picture to share? It could be a happy, sad or humorous tale. The skies the limit. I've decided to turn this into a monthly meme blog hop thing. So do Link up below and grab the badge code ... and don't forget to tweet #onceuponatime.

Once Upon A Time
Grab the badge code ...

<a href="" title="Once Upon A Time"><img alt="Once Upon A Time" height="170" src="" width="150" /></a>

Thursday, 22 March 2012

I Know I'm In Need Of Remodelling When ...

I was going to have time out from writing today BUT THEN I read Older Single 'Grumpy' Mum's latest offering. AND THEN I found myself lured like a toddler to ice cream into eagerly participating in this weeks Listography theme from KateTake 5.

Guess I will have that break tomorrow evening.

I know I'm In Need Of Remodelling When ...

  • I'm still wearing the same Mothercare M2B tops two years after the pregnancy. The sleeves have breeding holes and not even a jack hammer could drill through the armpits.

M2B - Now with holes

  • I realise I haven't had a hair cut in a year. My usual hairdresser left and I still haven't gotten around to trying out someone new. I loathe having to re-explain how my barnet needs styling. Will a new hairdresser get it right? I evidently have trust issues. My once coiffured shoulder length layered bob has considerably outgrown itself and is now held together in a 24 hour pony tail type knot at the back. Yes, even when I'm asleep. I tried a lob sided ponytail the other day, daring to be that little bit left field, and it just looked laughingly absurd. I had to sternly remind myself I am 41 not 18. Disconcertingly, there are always fuzzy strands that ethereally float like they are being pulled to either one of the magnetic poles on both sides of my head. I really need that haircut!

  • I need to dye my hair every six weeks. I shrieked when I discovered my first silver hair aged 24. It was promptly yanked out. I now have Dickie Davies silver surfboards growing without respite on either side of my face and forehead. Thank goodness for Daniel Fields Shade 7 natural darkest blond or my face would be austerely lined with battleship grey. Not a distinguished look. Additionally, I now have an abundance of silver stragglers growing cress like from my crown.
Dickie Davies - Remember him?

  • The Pendulati, my breasts, are still being held up by very off white nursing bras. Okay I did breastfeed for two years and have only just finished the lactating marathon. But still the combination of old nursing tops and misshapen bras mean I would look rather fetching in a charity shop window.  

  • Worryingly, I've started fantasising about shopping trips with Gok Wan.  

Your bangers are in a muddle Older Mum 

 Like a long lost friend, the Westfield Centre beckons me with open arms.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Working Nine to Five

The multi faceted Multi Layer Mummy tagged me over a month ago in the thought provoking Mothers Work Meme. I have to apologise for my appalling blogging manners; it always takes me eons to respond to tags and memes ...

Here be the rules;
  1. Post the rules
  2. Answer the questions in as much or as little detail as suits you
  3. Leave a comment on so we can keep track of the meme
  4. Tag three people and link them on your blog
  5. Let them know you tagged them
  6. Tweet loudly about taking part using #amothersworkmeme 

1. Did you work before becoming a mum?
2. What is your current situation?
3. Freestyle – got your own point you’d like to get across on this issue? Here’s your chance…

Did you work before becoming a mum?

I didn't have my first child until I'd just turned 39 so I had a motley assortment of jobs under my belt by the time Little A arrived. I thought it would be simplest to list what I've turned my fair hands to in the big bad world ....

  • Bar maid
  • Cleaner
  • *Night crew cleaner for a local supermarket
  • Radio and club DJ
  • Part time music (DJ'ing) lecturer
  • Telesales executive
  • Training administrator
  • Executive PA
  • Counsellor

*The worst job I've ever had! And that's another blog post.

What is your current situation?

Little A arrived in January 2010.  I had only just completed my diploma in counselling and psychotherapy the year before. I wanted to start building my practise when Little A was about 10 months old but because I was suffering from post natal depression and the stressful effects of birth trauma this just wasn't possible.  Psychotherapy is a very demanding vocation. You don't have to be perfectly together to be an effective therapist. Good enough is fine. But you still do need a healthy amount of emotional stability and groundedness to be fully present to someone else's life story and personal experiences.

Little A started going to a child minders one day a week last year to give me an opportunity to rest and flex my mental muscles. Emotionally I was in a stronger place so I began seeing a handful of clients on my day off and Saturday mornings. We are planning a move this year so I don't intend increasing my client case load until things have settled and I know the lie of the land.

Being a therapist in private practise gives me freedom and flexibility. I am self employed and in command of the hours I work. One day I would love to have a full time practise and there are so many related courses I want to train in to build up my palate of therapist skills. I am very passionate about my work.

In the mean time I blog to my hearts content.

Freestyle  ...

The office administration roles were simply jobs to pay the rent and tidy me over. My heart was in music, DJ'ing and now helping others as a therapist; both careers have gifted me a very creative outlet. I'm very grateful.

Being self employed means I get to work around Little A's needs. I've finally started enjoying the 360 degree role of most of the time SAHM. Maybe the shackles of depression have totally lifted although I still have my low days. It actually came as quite a culture shock becoming a mum. Before Little A burst into our lives my days were organised into neat pockets of exercise, work, college and time with Younger Dad. Life was controlled and structured. The isolated chaos of the first year with a new born was a major contributor to my depression.

I don't think I could go back to working in an office. Although its only been two years I feel I've been away from that environment too long. My desk top confidence has waned and I seem to speak in a different tongue these days. Returning to the corporate world might engender a similar culture shock to those first few months of Little A's existence. Still I do miss the human contact and camaraderie found in the office kitchen, at lunch break and down the pub after a day of staring inanely at the computer.

My talents these days I think prevail in listening empathically to others and writing. Two things I feel safe and assured in.

You know, its not surprising why more and more women are having children later in life. A woman may want to establish herself in her work and attain a certain level of expertise or promotion before years of nappies and teething.  That way she has hopefully ensured financial and career security if she chooses to return to work.

And that's my two pennies worth ...

Handing the baton over to these fabulous ladies ...

Monday, 19 March 2012

#Art I Heart - Black

Mark Rothko - Black Form Painting

Apart from a very handy black dress that hangs under used in my wardrobe, I tend to view black as a heavy, burdensome colour. A colour associated with the unknown, depression and a threatening emptiness. Worn at funerals and revered as a symbol of angst and introspection by Goths and Emos. A colour identified with distortion and negativity; black and white thinking, the shadow of the yin and yang.

Yet my perception was altered upon experiencing Mark Rothko's Black Form paintings.

During the Summer of 2008 a rather jittery Younger Dad proposed to me in the familiar comfort of our living room. I promptly accepted his hand in marriage. Actually, I asked him to repeat his proposal again. I wanted to savour the moment. Poor Younger Dad. Asking once was nerve wrackingly bad enough. But twice? I was an exceptionally lucky girl. We had the engagement ring made; it has a diamond flanked by two sea green sapphires. Green is my favourite colour.

So I wanted to give Younger Dad something special in return. As part of my engagement present I bought two tickets to a Mark Rothko retrospective at the Tate Modern followed by a sumptuous dinner at the Oxo Tower restaurant.

On a Saturday afternoon in October I surprised Younger Dad with two tickets to the exhibition. He was over joyed as he really appreciates Rothko's work. So that evening we made our way to the Embankment. I remember the sunset well. Looking out of the upper deck window of the packed bus it was as if a bottle of claret had been nonchalantly poured over the heavens; a glowing mosaic of ruby splats and splodges staining the Autumn sky. What a visually vibrant start to a special occasion.

We spent at least an hour at the retrospective. I found myself drawn to a smaller room that housed a selection of Mark Rothko's Black Form paintings. The space was busy; full of post work chatter and the sharp clinking of wine glasses. I sat in front of one of the pieces and found myself seduced into stillness and quietude. The painting lured me into its darkness and invited an uncertain plunge into the deep space that dwells within my inner core. A starless night is what I discovered within. Not to sound too pretentious I touched upon an existential void; an empty nothingness. An abyss. And in this blackness I felt comforted and calmed. A serene blanket wrapped around me that drowned out the external hubbub. And I felt reassured, bolstered by the solidity of Rothko's Black.

Visually Rothko's Black may seem uninteresting, even bland. What's there to actually look at? But emotionally it had such a profound impact on my senses. I could have meditated in front of Black for hours. But with a soft tap on my shoulder Younger Dad distracted me from my reverie and off we strolled to satiate ourselves with a four course meal at the Oxo Tower.

Black isn't actually a colour; its the absence of all colours.  In a positive light, it represents an emptiness in which anything can disappear an re-emerge anew imbued with potential and possibility.

Mark Rothkos's Black paintings hang in the Mark Rothko Chapel, a tranquil environment that offers an 'intimate sanctuary to people of every belief'. I think I'm going to add the Chapel to my bucket list of essential places to visit before I'm paying for an annual subscription to readers digest and sucking on humbugs.   

Mark Rothko Chapel

I never realised that black could be so spiritually renewing and transformative.

I am linking up this post with Midlife Single Mum's very imaginative Art I Heart meme. The idea is that you choose one piece of art you feel drawn to and write a short story about it.

Friday, 16 March 2012

A First For Everything

The very sassy and attractive Older Single Mum tagged me last century in a meme about firsts.

This could be tricky. Below the age of twenty things have gotten a little fuzzy and disjointed.

Here's hoping that the annals of my mummy brain can grab hold of something.

My first boyfriend ...

Mmmmm. Are we talking first boyfriend or first proper boyfriend? There was James, son of a dentist, aged 5. Then Timothy, aged 11; we cycled around the block together. It was a big block. Then there were holiday romances with Stuart, Steve, Douglas and someone called Will. No, my first proper boyfriend was Simon. I was 16 and our relationship lasted four years. Not bad. And we are still in occasional contact courtesy of Mark 'Facebook' Zuckerberg.

The first person I kissed ...

When I was thirteen I was given my first taste of independence. My parents let me loose on an English version of Summer Camp. It was a week long PGL *Parents Get Lost* tennis holiday somewhere in Ipswich. Needless to say it never improved my back hand. Me and my gaggle of girl friends including Amanda Epstein, granddaughter of Brian Epstein, who managed the Beatles, spent the whole week eyeing up the talent. There was an end of week disco and we all wanted to cop off with someone. My someone happened to be an Italian going by the name of Marco. He had brown curly'ish hair. He couldn't slow dance. And that kiss. We were sat on a step somewhere and he turned to me and said "bacio". I didn't know what this meant. But I immediately found out when he lent his face into mine and thrust his tongue into my mouth. Then kind of left it there. No movement. A cold, limp Italian tongue. It was awkward. Odd. And put me off snogging for several years. I guess it was game set and match to Marco.

My first job

This was during the summer of '89. I'd just finished my A'Levels and needed going out money. I ended up with two jobs; cleaner and barmaid.  As a cleaner I worked for an agency who sent me on jobs to fumigate flats before new tenants arrived. Thick marigolds, scouring pads and ALOT of all purpose cleaner is all that I can remember. And a particularly filthy bath. I didn't mind working behind a bar and chatting with punters. I could pull a mean pint. This was in the days before the current licencing laws. So I would work a lunchtime and evening shift. I didn't enjoy cleaning the ashtrays or smelling of beer. Nor was I keen on the deputy manager who had a disgruntled chip on his shoulder.

My first pay packet

Do you mean money in a little brown envelope or BACS transfer? If the former, then see above. But if its the latter then I guess my first pay packet would be aged 21. I was working in another dreary job as a night crew cleaner at the local supermarket. It was to pay off my student over draft. Yes, over draft not loan. I didn't see much daylight and I didn't see much of the money that meandered into my bank account. It was consumed by my debt. I think I managed a hair cut and some clothes out of my salary but that was it. I did pay off the over draft swiftly though. Unsurprisingly I didn't last long in that job. I was handed my P45 only after a few months. And that's another story ...

My first CD seven inch

I bought my first record aged 13. The year was 1984. Hip hop, rap and break dancing had shaken up dance floors and shopping centres across the country. Do you remember Grandmaster Flash's White Lines? I recall dragging my bemused mother to see Break Dance The Movie that Summer; I sat transfixed at the electro rhythms, back spinning and body popping that danced in front of my formative eyes. There wasn't much of a story line apart from the usual boy meets girl and a lot of moon walking ensues. Anyway the first record I bought that year was I Feel For You by Chaka Khan; I love, love, love that harmonica riff.

In case you are not familiar here is Grandmaster Flash, White Lines.

My first holiday abroad

My first over seas adventure was to visit a very well to do Aunt and Uncle who lived in a rather ostentatious home on Hermosa Beach in California. I was only nine at the time, and so I went with my parents and younger brother. We flew on the now defunct Pan Am Airways and spent three weeks touring and absorbing the many facets of the Golden State. We visited San Francisco, San Diego, and drove through Death Valley into Nevada for a short sojourn in the electric neon overload of Las Vegas. Actually most of this went over my head. I was more interested in chocolate doughnuts, Macdonalds and Disney Land.

What age were you when you moved out of your parents home?

I was 21. I'd not long moved back home after graduating with a pointless degree from Lancaster University. My parents had divorced during my final year. So living back home with just my father proved rather trying. We were ships passing on opposite horizons especially given I was working night shifts three to four times a week. Anyway a move back to the family home after three independent years at University felt like a backwards step. So I moved out and into a very fun filled shared house with a bunch of other job shy twenty something slackers. Ever read Generation X? It let me continue my idle student existence.

And now I am tagging you ....

Flossing the Cat
Glasgow Mummy
Mummy Plum
Multi Layer Mummy

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Bon Voyage Baby Milk - Toddler Weaned.

I can't quite believe it. After weeks of deliberating and mental preparation Little A is weaned. My clever two year old has severed a once inseparable tie with her beloved mummy's "baby milks". It was emotional. Surprisingly, not for Little A, but for me.

After two years it was time to stop for my well being. I wanted to continue for longer but an intuitive tug kept hinting there might be a connection between breastfeeding and my emotional volatility. My GP confirmed a long held suspicion that I had a sensitivity to the hormone progesterone, the levels of which remain raised through out breastfeeding. A sensitivity can affect mood swings and depression.

I genuinely felt sombre about stopping. I adored the tenderness of our breastfeeding relationship. Still it was now time to focus on my needs. I felt reassured in the knowledge that I'd thoroughly done my bit for Little A.

So, if you are interested, I wanted to share with you how we did it.

Since Christmas I had whittled down her feeds to the big three; when she awoke in the morning, at nap time and before her bedtime story. She used to snack mid morning and afternoon but I just ceased these comforts and distracted her with cuddles, books, toys and Cbeebies. She grizzled at first but after a couple of days accepted the new state of affairs.

In preparation I reminded Little A on a daily basis that baby milk was going to finish. Her "why mummy" was met with "because you are a big girl now and baby milk is for little babies". And to her credit Little A clearly understood and accepted the propaganda I was drilling into her angelic mind. It almost felt like I was subjugating Little A to the prolonged modus operandi of a redundancy ...

Dear Little A,

After a considered review we have to restructure mummy's milking assets. Therefore, unfortunately, the position of breastfeeding beneficiary has become untenable. This letter serves as formal written notice that baby milk is to be phased out over the coming month..

We will endeavour to help you find other suitable sources of comfort and advise contact details for relevant agencies in due course. We would like to take the time to thank you for your loyalty and devotion to your role.

Any outstanding milk will be provided in a complimentary beaker.

Yours *MR Department. 
*Mummy Resources.

Importantly, I realised that if I was going to take something absolutely cherished away from Little A, I needed to offer her something in return. So with this is mind my WMW, weapons of mass weaning, relied on two cunning means;
  1. Distraction
  2. Bribery 
Amongst other things my ammunition included ...

Stickers, sticker book and a new jazzy plate for yummies

New 'out of focus' big girls beaker

Some familiar friends

The plan.

The morning feed was the first to go since its not associated with falling asleep. Upon waking the aim was to extract Little A from her cot and plant her in my bed. Then after kindly informing her that baby milk is all gone, distract her with homemade banana muffins, 'big girls milk' in a beaker, stickers and sticker book, and cuddles en mass. Then the plan was to leave it for a week before dropping the next feed.

The nap time feed was the next to cease. Again, after advising Little A that mummy milk has disappeared into oblivion, offer her stories, cuddles and milk in the big girls beaker. Then wait another week for the finale.

The bedtime feed was the last to conclude. The aim was to commence the bedtime routine that bit earlier to accommodate any screaming and flailing limbs. Again I was going to distract her with lots of stories, big girls milk, and remain with her, if this was required, until she fell asleep.

On the third day after dropping each feed I decided to reward Little A with an In the Night Garden figure to congratulate her on her weaning graduation.

The execution.

I planned for the worst expecting numerous seismic tantrums. But it turned out that Little A was more ready than I had anticipated. She totally and utterly surprised me. The stormy waters turned out to be mine. Days before our weaning mission began I felt both tearful and rather apprehensive.

Little A suckled for longer than she normally would during her last morning feed whilst we enjoyed a wonderful snuggle in bed. The night before I reminded her that baby milk was finishing the following morning. The next day as I entered her bedroom Little A sheepishly asked "can I have some baby milk mummy". "Do you remember what I said last night," I replied, and then scooped her out of her cot, carried her into the lounge and sat her on the sofa. I reminded her that baby milk was all gone and then distracted her with the alternative perks on offer. And she accepted them. She whined a little and then ploughed into her stickers. I couldn't believe it. No crying. Nothing. But Little A was shrewd, "baby milk at nap time and bedtime''. "Ah, yes" I reassuringly answered.

So over the duration of that week I cautioned Little A that nap time milk was going to end.  Little A had her one and only tantrum which lasted all of four minutes on the day this feed terminated. Red faced and wagging her finger at me she rebuffed the new books I proffered with "that's not working mummy". I couldn't believe that my two year old had wised up to my methods of bribery. But it was wasn't long before Little A acquiesced and asked excitedly for her new stories.

Silent grief filled tears rolled down my cheeks whilst Little A enjoyed her final bedtime feed. This was it. The very last one. I quietly murmured, "I've loved every minute of breastfeeding you my little darling but tomorrow night baby milk is going to end". The following evening Little A began frantically tugging at my jumper upon hearing those dreaded words that mummy milk was no more. She tightly scrunched her face and was about to let out a voluminous wail when I produced some new bedtime reads and an additional Gruffalo toy from behind a cushion. Little A's eyes immediately brightened as she grabbed her new possessions, and then completely forgot about her milk. And hasn't asked for it since.

And just like that we were done. Weaned.

My energy levels are noticeably increasing and thankfully Younger Dad is now able to put Little A to bed. I'm praying to the heavens my breasts will reduce after all this. I never used to be an H cup.

Freedom and new bras beckon.

Monday, 5 March 2012

#Art I Heart - Friendship

H is my closest and dearest friend. Our friendship presently spans 22 years. We met through a mutual acquaintance at university. If you met us you might think we were chalk and cheese but our chemistry works. There are similarities in our personal histories and we are both independent and creative women. To this day I don't think we have ever missed each others birthdays. H isn't just a friend though, she is family and my most trusted confidant.

Amongst her many qualities H is dependable, down to earth, a great listener, a skilled thinker, empathic, warm hearted, cultured and particularly well read.  She is also a very talented visual artist. I am very proud to say that I own three of her original artworks that each mark an important moment in my life.

I think H gave me this piece when I was either 21 or 22. I love the earthy textures and colours, and the way the paint has been manipulated and scratched away. We were both post graduates at this point. H escaped the desolation of a ramshackle Lancashire farmhouse to come and live with me and a bunch of other twenty somethings in an even more run down terraced house in the post graduate and burglar friendly enclave of Hyde Park, Leeds.

These were very happy and creative times.

H found an art studio and networked with other local artists. I was a burgeoning DJ. H always accompanied me to my weekly radio show on Dream FM; a pirate station which was particularly popular with the petty inmates of Armley jail as my fan mail will testify.

Anyway we had far too much time on our hands. It was an era of leisurely ease, late nights and large vats of vegetable pasta. Our home became ground zero for many a riotous house party. A lot of fun and buffoonery was had.

This was my 30th birthday present from H. Its a small pencil sketch based on one of her larger pieces. By our third decade H had become an established artist and had moved to London with her long term partner to participate in a three year art residency scholarship based in the East End. I moved to the big smoke during my thirty first year. I still DJ'ed occasionally but was now in the throes of reinventing myself as a tai chi floating, yoga bending, corporate clad 'jobs to pay the rent' woman. 

Our early thirties was a period when H and I spent many a Sunday afternoon engrossed in conversation on Hampstead Heath or encased in the inviting darkness of a North London cinema. I've lost count the number of movies we've seen together. I don't want to picture the mountainous heap of sweet pop corn that got scoffed. Actually H never really ate pop corn, she always used to smuggle in a packet, or three, of Mintolas. I've no idea where she purchased them from. I still haven't located anywhere in London that stocks them.

We once found ourselves rather spectacularly lost on Hampstead Heath. It was a damp, drizzly November day. H and I had decided upon an afternoon amble as part of my 31st celebrations. The idea of a bracing walk had seemed like a good one. Not when we found ourselves in a directional muddle and at the mercy of our map reading skills. The icy drizzle morphed into vengeful rain pellets that targeted us with missilic gusto. Then the swift arrival of an inky dusk mid afternoon sent us into a tail spin. Tree branches that had offered a protective canopy in the daylight now clawed menacingly over our heads. There was no one else about but our nervous selves as we trudged aimlessly round and round the same path. It all got a little Blair Witch. After an hour we eventually found the exit and the reassuring sight of H's car. Still, the afternoon had not been not in vain. It made several generous servings of victoria sponge and a mug of strong brew back at H's taste all the more sweeter.

This masterpiece is my wedding gift from H. I always secretly hoped she would bequeath Younger Dad and I an original canvas to mark our nuptials. And I wasn't disappointed. On the day before our wedding H arrived in her car and unloaded a very large and beautifully wrapped square shape.

"No" I gasped. I couldn't believe it. I was ecstatic.

Inside our living room, I carefully prised the delicate tissue off to reveal an H original.

H and I spent a decadent afternoon together getting pampered at the Cow Shed. Then the night before the ceremony we kicked back, ate food, drank sparkling wine and watched Wood Allen.

We also talked about the years gone by and our hopes and fears for the future.


I love H's work and not just because she is my best friend. I love her subject matter; the relationship between architecture and urban space. I really like the way she plays with perspective and cleverly incorporates industrial materials into her pieces.

H was the best woman at my wedding and will be for the rest of my days. I honestly can't imagine life without her.

Ten months separate H and I in age and do you know what is so poetic? Ten months now separate the age between our daughters. And we are both God Mothers to each others children.

This post is dedicated to H. A wonderful, wonderful friend.

I am linking up this post with Midlife Single Mum's very imaginative Art I Heart meme. The idea is that you choose one piece of art you feel drawn to and write a short story about it. Although in this case it was three pictures and long rambling prose. 

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Snot, Sweat and Cough Mixture

I have so much to write about at the moment and an abundance of interesting memes to respond to. But the aims of my blog were thwarted this week. I got sick. As my illness lingers on, making my forehead and the palms of my hands uncomfortably clammy, it calls forth my fullest attention. So this seems to be the thing to reflect upon and pay written consideration to. It would appear that my malady has become my muse. This nasty head cold stubbornly refuses to budge, a little like Winter's final grasp on the fresh coat tails of Spring. Or more like the repeated wiping of a cemented mix of dried weetabix, porridge and yogurt off the kitchen table.

There are three things in this world I really don't like;

  • Marmite
  • Patchouli oil
  • Being unwell  

Marmite is akin to meconiam in a jar. Patchouli oil has the effect of burning the insides of my nostrils and an unpleasant reminder of my purple hazed kaftan wearing days. Yes, you read that correctly, I did wear a kaftan. I was a student. I was going through a Doors phase. I was a walking hair dyed cliche. Can we leave it at that?

And ... then there is being ill.

I don't appreciate being unwell. I don't like the way my whole being shuts down. I cant think clearly which just seems like an unfair extension of how I am in normal health. I don't communicate well. I feel grubby and unclean. My already fractured sleep pattern becomes even more splintered. My sense of taste and smell are denied. It ignites my asthma. The contents of the dishwasher is ignored. Clothes pile high in the laundry basket. Scrunched tissues cover table tops, adorn the sofa and fill my pockets. I sweat in unladylike places like behind my knees and the under the deep folds of both the pendulati; my breasts.  But most importantly in my virulent state I'm unable to mother Little A well. I just can't meet her needs or expectations sufficiently. In short I'm a lousy mummy when I'm poorly.

I'm not talking about your bog standard head cold here. A few sachets of lemsip and I can function okay. Little A has her mummy, albeit a snotty, sneezing one. We still make it to the park, if its sunny, and do our usual things.

This time was different. I came down with a temperature over the weekend. This wasn't the end of the world thanks to pain killers and the additional support from Younger Dad. I thought I had seen the unwelcome intruder off by Monday but then like a Jehovah's Witness, it came knocking on my door again comeTuesday. The virus was back. Only this time with more temperature, more snot, more coughing, more sneezing and more sweating. 

On Tuesday morning I found myself staring blankly into space whilst parked on the closed lid of the lavatory seat for almost twenty minutes. Little A rescued me from my stupor with ''are you doing a poo or a wee mummy''. I then had to climb into bed for a fifteen minute lie down with Little A clambering over me and trying to prise my eyes open. I felt so useless as a mum. Its a real challenge taking care of my poorly needs when I have to cater to those of a dependent toddler. Thank goodness for Cbeebies.

I made the meals, put her down for a nap but I was so grumpy and irritable all day. I want someone to look after me when I'm unwell. I feel vulnerable. I don't want to have to look after Little A as well. I felt resentful and then guilty for feeling this way. Fortunately cavalry arrived in the form of Younger Dad when he returned home from work in the evening. Makes me feel in awe of single mums who don't have that extra support from a partner.

Tuesday night I experienced very fit full sleep; nodding off then waking up every hour or so to a delirium of muddled thoughts.

Fortunately Little A went to the childminders on Wednesday giving me a chance to just simply be. When I'm really unwell I take this as a sign I've been over doing it so that I'm forced to rest. So I shivered and sweated under a duvet on the sofa and indulged myself with the moving and beautifully acted, 'The Help'.

After a cocktail of throat lozenges, cough syrup, homoeopathy, ventolin I'm definitely turning a corner. I cannot recommend Covonia cough mixture though. Its the most abhorrent thing I've ever tasted. I could say it looks like gravy. But I'm going to be honest. It uncannily resembles diarrhoea. Also the conflicting tastes of menthol and liquorice do not go together like love and marriage. Given the state of my blocked nose I was amazed I could taste it. I looked at its ingredients. It has the crushed bones of a Tasmanian devil, the tears of a crocodile, the fluff of a dinosaur hamster and some thing called squill tincture. Squill tincture? What is that?  Apparently squill is a plant extract that helps to loosen up the phlegm.

Next time I will use Benylin. So less offending on the taste buds. Why can't they make all medicine taste like Calpol?

How do you cope and what do you do when you are poorly and have small children to look after?

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