Wednesday 27 June 2012

The Check Out Stand Off

Today is my day off .....

To see clients, read, write, practise a downward dog or simply to stop, sit still and listen to the ebb and flow of my breath.

Every Wednesday, I hand over a very willing Little A to a child minder who's taken care of her for nearly two years. She's a down to earth, consistent woman who I completely trust with my toddler.

In the lukewarm spill of the shower I consider the day ahead. I make mental notes of friends to text, twitter, or facebook - why don't I just pick up the phone - and engaging ideas for blog posts. I had intended on writing another instalment of my Once Upon a Time series but then this morning unfolded in a surprisingly baffling way .....

My ten o'clock appointment cancels which means I have an extra hour in today's schedule. I decide upon an excursion to the local supermarket. I've already prepared a hastily written list of culinary regulars like fish fingers, cheerios and 50/50 bread. Additionally, my purse harbours the all important shopping trolley pound. So off I set in my blue grey mummy mobile to the holy grail of food aisles in Chiswick.

I prefer to shop at the supermarket during the morning. As the aisles are relatively empty, I can navigate my trolley along two for one soup deals, wheat free inventions and palate sweetening condiments with wistful abandon. It's practically a meditation and by the end I feel almost self actualised.

Today my item list is short and so my shop is a brief contemplation.

I head for an empty check out. The trolley is laden with bounty and biscuits. And this is the moment where matters start to get a little strange.

In the adjacent queue I spot the husband of Younger Dad's cousin. He's there with his toddler who's deeply asleep in her buggy. We say our hellos and make small talk. I'm stuffing yogurts, bacon and houmous into a bag when two other customers line up behind me. One is a woman who appears to be of Malaysian origin. Her countenance hints at late middle age. The other is a man dressed head to foot in smokey grey attire. I don't notice him at first.

The cashier is still scanning my items when the woman moves to stand beside me. She's looking into an open purse with the anticipation of buying her goods. She isn't aware I haven't finished yet and I'm feeling a little uncomfortable with her proximity. Inkling tells me she might be new to the country. The cashier acknowledges the situation by asking the woman to step back until I've purchased my goods. She obliges without any fuss.

Without my noticing the man dressed in grey, Mister Grey, positions himself on the other side of the loading area so that he's stood facing me. He's also too close for comfort. I glance at him. His face is fairly young. I'm thinking early thirties. His expression is tense and ashen. His grey clothes are casual and a little unkempt. Then I look down to view what his fingers are fiddling with. I'm amazed by what I see. Between his hands are layers upon layers of fifty pound notes the thickness of a Bertolli butter tub. Actually, probably thicker than this. My first thought is no one carries around that amount of cash ...

I feel threatened by his stance and the wad, of what may be, dubious money. There's something edgy about him.

Now the woman is sidling closer again. I feel flanked and hemmed in by both strangers.

Enough. I've had enough.

I take a step back and foolhardily request "guys, could you both please give me some space here until I've finished".

Mister Grey tightens his facial muscles and retorts quite malevolently, "I can stand where I like. I'm from Brentford. The streets."

I tell him I need some room. That I feel intimidated by his presence. That I don't want to see his pile of cash.

He snarls, "you think jus' cos you're from Chiswick you can order us around. I'm a dad y'know."

"Well I'm a mum."

My friend in the other queue butts in "she's not from Chiswick."

He's right. I'm not. But hang on a minute. So what if I was?

Then out of the blue the woman hisses "no" and orders Mister Grey back to her side with the commanding flick of a hand.

What? They're together?

How are these two disparate souls connected?

I finish packing and pay in haste. The cashier apologises. Why? She hasn't done anything wrong apart from burdening me with annoying coupons I'll never use.

Before I leave I turn to the odd couple with a parting shot, "this wasn't a class issue, this was a space issue."

Mister Grey is about to respond but the woman admonishes him with a steely look. He backs off.

My friend escorts me to my blue grey mummy car out of concern for any reprisals.

As I pull out of the car park I see the woman and Mister Grey exiting the supermarket. I'm left wondering what brought these two characters together. It also dawns on me that Mister Grey's mention of his origins had nothing to do with class but was instead a threatening gesture. And why was he in the Chiswisk branch of Sainsburys with all those crisp pink notes?

I left the supermarket in a not so zen like state.

So tell me, what do you think was going on? Bent? Or just won the lottery? I'd love to know your thoughts .....

Monday 25 June 2012

A Bus Strike and a Clubbing Experience

Typical. There was a bus strike. I was completely unaware of this until a helpful passer-by politely pointed at the electronic sign above my head. In red neon it shouted the words all commuters dread, INDUSTRIAL ACTION. Why the heck hadn't I noticed this before? Oh no. Not today. Not at the start of Britmums Live. I'm going to have to walk the long walk to the tube. And fast. Until the moment that stranger had redirected my attention, I'd been sitting absent mindedly on the unyielding plastic bench of the bus shelter for nearly twenty minutes, my faith in London transport still intact.

It was on my hurried half-run to the station that I finally became aware of the distinct lack of public transport snarling Uxbridge Road, and the unusual throng of frustrated looking pedestrians busying like ants in the same direction as me. How had I not noticed these glaring clues earlier? Then providence gracefully stepped in. I glanced intuitively over my shoulder and spotted something heavenly. A lone double decker. And it was rumbling towards me. I was luckily within an ear shot of a bus stop and flagged the renegade vehicle. A gasp of calming relief escaped my mouth as the bus indicated and pulled to the curb. It was packed but I squeezed on between stiff Summer raincoats and bullying shoulder bags. I'd made it ...

... And I was on time for the pre conference meet up at the coffee shop. But a large chai latte couldn't assuage my nerves. Britmums Live was my first blogging conference and it seemed like one giant blind date. Only this date had a narrative twist. I don't think I've been in a situation where I'm meeting someone in the flesh for the first time and they already know many intimate details about my life. What would my cyber friends think of me? Was there a believable and fluid congruency between my written word and the real life me? Would I lose some of my on line mystique? I needn't have worried though as this weekend I found myself standing shoulder to shoulder with a group of welcoming, genuine, warm, and thoroughly supportive women.

And the conference? Well I spent the first hour overwhelmed and rooted to the spot like a stunned rabbit caught in head lights. I don't remember drinking the peppermint tea or eating the lemon cake I held in each clammy hand. I do remember intently gazing at many chest lines trying to decipher names and blog titles on conference badges. I remember uttering "Oh I know you" and "I really like your blog" an awful lot. I also remember a lively conversation about the merits of True Blood and Twilight. Vampires are useful ice breakers. Adrenaline though can have a very over powering and surreal effect on the senses. So much so that the entire two days often felt like a nostalgic throw back to my DJ'ing days. The excitement of meeting so many new people and absorbing the collective positive energy of the 500 bloggers present had more in common with a clubbing experience. I found myself riding an ecstatic high.

The stuff that stole my interest included call to action keynotes from Ruby Wax and Sarah Brown, serenely dozing babes in arms that invited broody yearnings, workshops on the Path to Getting Published and How to Create and Market Your Own eBooks which appealed to my writing aspirations, copious glasses of prosecco and canapes proferred during the BIBs Awards party, and the Bloggers Keynote ...

The Bloggers Keynote was a truly powerful, and empathic experience. It was a joy to listen to each chosen Blogger's selected post. Their spoken renditions breathed life and electricity into their written words. Hayley from Downs Side Up received a standing ovation for reading this moving post about her beautiful daughter, Natty, who has downs syndrome. There wasn't a dry eye in the room.

And now its all over and I'm genuinely sad. I find myself in a melancholic haze. I think I'm having a post clubbing come down. For the first time my humble blog and I felt a part of something much bigger; a blogging community that is making a difference.

Life is about relationship, and it doesn't matter if this takes place on line. Because behind that computer screen resides a real person with history, worries, triumphs and losses, aspirations, hope, tragedy and illness, and love. And the energy of that human experience pulsates through the written word. And in that there is always connection ...

See you at Britmums 2013.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Cheery Cheerfulness and Tossed Salad Chic

At last the sun appeared less shy this week and brazenly brushed aside the clouds. Still I've never known a Summer this UV challenged. And today its raining again. So I've decided to ignore all things damp, drizzly and wet and instead focus upon this weeks nuggets of positivity. I'm linking up with Reasons To Be Cheerful hosted by the lovely Mummy From The Heart where you'll find other posts that sparkle and shine .....

My Blog. I don't know if you'd noticed but its had an eye catching overhaul. I'm very pleased with the finish. It's simple, welcoming, clean and a little quirky, which is the look I was after. I really like the broken cassette tape, scruffy converse trainers and the splash of muted teal. The inspiration for the header was mine but the wonderful Violet Posy applied all the technical wizardry. And didn't she do a fabulous job? I spent most of last week frantically emailing her my ideas and demands for the perfect looking site; "could you add one more piece of scrunched paper over the r? ", "can you rotate the tape a little more? ", "the font size isn't quite right" .... I don't know how she put up with my constant requests and obsession with the tiniest of details. It must be tricky for a web designer to accurately interpret a client's ideas. Violet Posy's idea of 'quirky' could have been a world away from mine. Incidentally, I put the L into Luddite. You won't catch a me tinkering with the html and css That's why I had to bring in a learned soul to assist me with injecting some visual magic into this blog.

Fathers Weekend. We celebrated all things Younger Dad during Saturday as we were going to be with friends on Sunday morning. Anyway Younger Dad received a book, 'My Daddy Cooks' from Little A while I gave him a gift of speciality coffees. I made a firm family favourite reserved for birthdays and special occasions; pancakes oozing with full fat butter, maple syrup and bacon. Dee-licious.

On Sunday we went on a reconnaissance of Hertfordshire towns in a bid to choose the location of our next home. Letchworth, Hitchin and Harpenden all looked rather habitable but probably out of our price range. What we happened upon in Letchworth though was, oddly, Britain's very first round-a-bout. It was situated in the middle of a sleepy junction that was surrounded by generous grass verges and post war styled detached homes. I'm not quite sure how this historically recent town can lay claim to having the oldest round-a-bout. There was however a wooden sign post in the middle of the traffic island pompously proclaiming its ascendancy over every other round-a-bout in the country. It must have existed long before this leafy middle class enclave did. Younger Dad was going to make a left turn but I ordered he drive an honorary lap around ye olde circle of grass. I wonder if the National Transport Museum houses a chunk of turf from this slice of Letchworth's traffic history?

Somewhere near Harpenden we visited a Sunday Open Farm. Little A delighted in the daddy sized tractor wheels, sheep shearing and new born chicks. Younger Dad took her on a tractor and trailer ride. I waited by the sidelines with two beefburgers smearing grease on my fingers, the napkins were useless, while they took the tour of the fields perched on farm yardy hay bales. Both lunch and I had gone cold by the time they'd returned after a surprisingly long twenty minutes. Little A's enthusiasm had waned. So had mine. It was time to hit the road.

Britmums. Its finally arrived. My first blogging conference. I know I'm going to feel completely overwhelmed. You kindly read my words but what on earth will you make of me in real life? That's the part I'm nervous about. Now I haven't gone overboard with The Outfit. The ensemble I'm wearing is both casual and comfortable.

So dear reader I present to you the look I'll be rocking this weekend.

I call it Tossed Salad Chic, a thrown together medley of high street reliables from Gap, Next and M&S .....

Tossed Salad Chic

Tuesday 19 June 2012

100 Word Challenge - Duplicitous Recess

Fresh morning light flooded through the kitchen window invading shadows and mocking the stack of grease laden plates by the sink.

I sat at the breakfast bar hunched over a bowl of muesli. I managed one dry flaky mouthful before returning to the shocking news in yesterday's fingered paper.

David had committed suicide.

In the dark recess of my mind David's empty eyes met mine. Back then I'd felt equally compelled and repulsed by our attraction.

Charlotte entered. I felt uneasy.

"Coffee Char?"

"Yup. I'm gonna call David's brother."

"We're still going to the funeral then?"

"It's my fault. I have to go."

"Charlotte!" I was frustrated. "How is that duplicitous idiot's death your fault?"

I'm linking up with JB47's 100 Word Challenge. This week's prompt was ... in the dark recess of my mind ...

Thursday 14 June 2012

A Ray Of Sunshine

I've felt a little lost this week. Blogging inspiration has eluded me. So I took a gander at my drafts and re-remembered that I'd been given a ray of hope in the midst of torrential downpours, knee high puddles and broken umbrellas. The wonderful Bibsey, who resides in the Spanish hills - I'm envious - and writes a very bright and clever blog about her family adventures in sunnier climes, has awarded me a Sunshine Award. This is for being, and I quote, "a blogger who positively and creatively inspires others in the blogosphere". Officially, this means I'm a good egg. Not scrambled, coddled, poached or fried ... just good. Plain and simple.

So the rules require that I ....

1. Thank the person who gave me this award.
2. Answer the questions below ... its all about favourite things
3. Pass on the award to ten sunshiny bloggers and give them a nudge about it

Cheers Bibsey! This middle aged bird's face has a cheshire cat grin. Much needed as I don't know how much more of this wash out Summer I can take.

Favourite Colour ...

Green. What can I say ... Vibrant spring foliage. Apples, grapes and courgettes. Olive and emerald. The teal and turquoise currents of the ocean. Its nature's trusted palate. It compliments my sallow skin. It brightens my blue grey eyes. I almost married in a pale moss dress. Its the rolling hills of the Cotwolds or the chilling drama of the Pennines. It soothes and harmonises. I'm not so keen on lime though ...

Favourite Animal ...

The pug.

Favourite Number ...

It just so happens its eight. That's my numerology number. Apparently this endows me with stamina, perseverance and earthy wisdom. Well that looked good in writing anyway. Its the time Little A falls asleep heralding my daily window of relief to write, read, and catch up with Younger Dad. Its also the digit on the clock face I would like to wake up to every so often. Once upon a time I did ... I'm also rather partial to box of After Eight Mints.

Favourite Drink ...

Camomile tea.

A cup of camomile and I can take on the day
I don't mind if it tastes like new mown grass and field fresh hay 
Pop a tea bag in the cup
Let it brew
My grumpy muddled head has a calmer hue 

Facebook or Twitter ... 

Neither really. But if I had to choose it would be twitter. Its socially spontaneous, fun, and has a far greater networking reach. My new passion though is Pinterest. Now I can happily spend hours on this creating visually pleasing collages. Its a lovely and inventive way of telling a story.

Your Passion ...

Aside from Little A and Younger Dad, its my writing. I love being a counsellor and helping others too but at the moment writing comes out on top. Over the last year blogging has transformed my life. I know that's a cliche but its true, and to the point where I now have a bee in my bonnet about writing fiction. I'm also rather passionate about my weekly - yes, I'm disciplined - Tesco custard danish.

Giving or getting presents ...

Giving. I have some imaginative gifts lined up for Younger Dad for Fathers Day. I would love to share what I've bought but I'm a little nervous he'll read this blog post. I can disclose that the Fathers Day celebration will include pancakes, maple syrup and bacon. Its a firm family favourite.

Favourite Day ...

Saturday because I get to have a lie in, see clients, have time for myself, and most of all, enjoy the company of my family.  If Younger Dad has been away for most of the week on business, he'll often treat us all to lunch at a local restaurant. Saturday nights Younger Dad and I relax and indulge our senses with a take-away and a movie, or the latest instalment of Mad Men; season five has been riveting.

Favourite Flower ...

Forget Me Not.

As a child I discovered them growing wildly in our back garden . 
I admire their fragility and innocence.


Gerbera Daisy.

I  love the bold splash of colour. This is a confident and self assured flower. If it could talk it would say, "look at me, aren't I fabulous". I wish I had that depth of self esteem ...  

And these are the wonderful bloggers I'm tagging ... (I couldn't think of ten)

Caught Writing
Lynsey The Mother Duck
Mummy Plum
Romanian Mum
Older Single Mum
Postcards From Pramstead
Three Years And Home

Images courtesy of Pinterest

Tuesday 12 June 2012

100 Word Challenge - Electrifying

David's laptop bag collided with the primal force of rush hour commuters jostling on the escalator.

He felt himself shoved and carried along the alimentary passageway that broadened onto the belly like chamber of the platform.

There's a real buzz about this place David thought.

He battled passed back packs and down turned faces until he reached the edge.

David tipped his weight forwards.

The train approached remorselessly.

Then. A pause. What was he thinking of?

He'd begun to straighten when his back made contact with a stranger's forceful limb. A hand? An elbow?

David barely registered the push. He lost balance and fell onto the electrified path.


I'm linking up with JB47's 100 Word Challenge. This week's prompt was ... there's a real buzz about this place ...

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