Sunday 24 March 2013

Snowed Under

It's time for a spring clean - ironic really, given the snow flurrying outside, that I'm wearing an extra pair of bed socks, an additional woollen maternity cardigan hanging over my stripey jumper.

Should it really be like this at the end of March? Younger Dad doesn't seem to think so. But I can still remember the long, extended, snowy winters of my childhood - the 1970's - white Easters with big fat wet flakes settling on the lawn, hiding the purple crocuses, confusing the migrated birds - home from sunnier climes.

And so to the clean up.... not my wardrobe, or Little A's toys, or Younger Dad's pile of Which magazines, but my on line mail. For the last year or so, I've woken to the bold black list of numerous unread emails choking my inbox, a stress inducing sight first thing in the morning - How many are there to read today? Where will I find the time? - over a-would-be calming bowl of porridge (with added fruit). But today I completed the changes I've been making over the last few days - there will be no more posts raining on my yahoo account screaming READ ME, READ ME. I love the blogs I've subscribed to but it was becoming overwhelming - like piles and piles of homework. So I've moved all my reading over to Blog Lovin - please don't be offended if you see I've unsubscribed to you, I'm now enjoying your posts over there.

This evening my inbox was like a freshly mown lawn, trimmed and tidy. Now I just need to deal with the few unexpected weeds - those requests from PR's and marketers asking for endless plugs that are totally at odds with the theme of my blog. Can you see 'How to Improve Your Financial Savings' nestling along side Once Upon a Time and One Week? No. Neither can I.  

And that, sadly, apart from two delightful evenings spent in lovely female company, has been the highlight of my week. My inbox. You see, I'm stressed at the moment - very stressed. I've taken to resting as much as I can for a mummy and eating one too many M&S chocolaty bites. The house move is taking it's toll, and there has been other unfortunate news too. The move was set to take place the beginning of April but the date of completion is slipping ever in the wrong direction. And we are in the dark as to what is happening further up the chain - Have their mortgages been fully approved? Have all the surveys been completed? Our seller's solicitor is being vague with our solicitor, our buyers worry we are going to pull out, we are stressing the same of them, our seller is being unnervingly quiet - I think she's stalling, I fret about the chain staying intact... and so it goes on and on.

I dearly want to move into our new home. I love the area we are relocating to - the family connections, the schools, the slower pace of life.

If the upper chain falls apart - please, no, no, no - we have decided to sell our flat, up sticks, and rent in Croxley Green. In the meantime, if the completion date moves beyond the 12th April, I will be ferrying Little A forty minutes back and forth to her new pre-school - I've already decided I'm going to plant myself in the nearby library and write while my daughter paints and dresses up with her new friends.

I want to start sorting - organise those books that will go into storage, and the unread paperbacks that will sit on the bookshelves of our new home. I want to start packing, to hear the stretching sound of masking tape on cardboard as our memories are squeezed tightly within the boxes. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo.

Blimey, I'm wound up like a spring at the moment - which brings me back to today's unseasonal weather.

Spring - where are you? Please come soon. Come brighten up my day. Bring us hope and a house move with your sunshine. Please...

If you enjoy reading Older Mum in a Muddle, please spare a thought for me in the Britmums Brilliance in Blogging Awards - The BIBS - there are sixteen great categories to chose from but I think I'm best placed in the writers category. You can click on the badge below to take you through to the nomination form on the Britmums page..... Thank you! X.


Thursday 14 March 2013

Limbo Land

Everything is still. Waiting. Quiet. Even the opened daffodils - big, loud, yellow trumpets - stand silently in the thin cylindrical glass vase on the kitchen table.

The fruit bowl's contents are over ripe and ageing. A pear has a squashed bottom like it's wearing a sodden nappy. Three bananas are blemished with leopard spots. There are apples - Eden's rejects - beyond temptation, their wrinkly skins predicting dry, unappetising first bites - their cores probably browning with unflappable demise.    

And I'm sat in a kind of limbo - not quite here, not quite there.

In fact we all are - Younger Dad, Little A and I.

I try to ignore the peevish whispers from the bookshelves 'pack me, pack me, pack me.' And I know how they feel - it's time to leave - to move into the new chapter of our lives, a brand new home for our family of three.   

When will the contracts exchange? It's just paper twiddling and signing dotted lines damn it. 

I am not made of patient stuff.

And Little A is both excited and confused, vacillating between 'mummy I'm going to live near my cousants (cousins)' and 'mummy I don't want to leave our flat.' There have been numerous nocturnal awakenings, although I suspect I layer her with too many warm blankets - it's hard keeping track with this mild-cold-mild-freezing weather. Then there is her concept of moving, 'mummy, can I take my toys with me when the big truck comes?' 'Sweet heart,' I reply, 'you can take ALL your toys and ALL your teddies,' reassuring her with dramatic emphasis on ALL. 'Oh sank you (thank you), sank you so much mummy!'

Yesterday, I invited her to join me in a spring sort out of her toys. Save for a few baby board books, a wooden boat, and plastic hammer and nail set, she refused to relinquish anything. Can't say I blame her - it wasn't good timing on my part. At the moment, Little A needs familiarity around her, even if it's the comforting relics she's neither seen nor played with in over two years.  

But I know she's going to be just fine...

'Hello, I'm Little A, what's your name?' She asks a platinum blond forty something woman - maybe I should go that colour? - sat to her left at the only che' che' cafe in Croxley Green.'What are you having for lunch today?' The woman turns to the little person on her right. She smiles warmly, taken aback by Little A's chutzpah, and engages my daughter about the weather and her slice of cake.

Already winning friends and influencing people.

'Mummy - loooook - I'm doing dressing up and drawing,' a shrill voice calls as I'm filling out the registration forms at her new pre-school - only a minute walk from our new home. Those contracts better exchange soon. When I look up, my eyes work hard at locating her. Ahhh there she is. I spot her in a pirates outfit painting yogurt pots alongside the other children.

She's going to enjoy living here....    

'We're seeing three childminders today,' she says to the first childminder we meet, 'can I do some painting now?' Paint brush in hand, Little A makes a colourful mess at a table in a sunlit conservatory. I carry on with the interview - she's very friendly, flexible, loaded with qualifications. Half way through, a little voice pipes up, 'can you read to me now?' The minder chooses a Barbie book - not my preferred choice - and proceeds reading about the size zero doll's morning routine.

She's not backwards in coming forwards.

'Can I have some lunch - can I have cheese on toast too?' Only ten minutes earlier, we'd arrived at the second childminder's home just as she was preparing food. 'Of course you can - settle yourself in a chair,' the minder replies. Little A sits herself at the kitchen table. She's accompanied by a baby in a high chair and the minder's very wilful daughter - same age as Little A - strapped in a booster seat. Little A is presented with beautifully cut melted cheese triangles - an alternating combination of cheddar and red leicester - positioned just so, overlapping, around the edge of the plate. In the middle, there's a delicate arrangement of salad  leaves, tomatoes and cucumber like the air is carrying them. These are toddlers you're feeding. A heated exchange erupts. 'You're strapped in... you're strapped in.... potatoes're strapped in.' 'No I'm not, I'm sitting in a normal chair,' retorts Little A. 'You're strapped in.... You're strapped in.' 'No I'm not,' Little A dismounts her chair and walks to the other end of the table, 'See, look, I'm not strapped in.' The minder and I are thinking the same thing - this clash can never happen again. Ever.

She can stand up for herself.

So we have much in place - a preschool, a childminder*, the removal firm - preparing Little A for her new life as a home counties girl. But until we have the keys to our new home, we're inhabiting a sort of a domestic no mans land. Hurry up solicitors, get a blinking move on would you!

In the mean time, I'll water the daffodils and buy some fresh fruit.

*We chose the third childminder - the one with an extra assistant, well selected books and mellow pre-schoolers.

Friday 8 March 2013

#Once upon a time - Fire

Once upon a time .....

I played with fire.

It was the thrill of courting danger, of my breath and heart stopping the moment I came too close, of death's potential in a single flame - the way the dancing and flickering drew me in like a finger beckoning 'come this way'.

Image courtesy of Google Images

On bonfire night my father stoked the fire with extra paraffin - the fire igniting with a rocket burst, flames racing up an invisible ladder, licking the lower branches of the sycamore trees. The next morning I lamented the withering trails of smoke, running out into the garden in red wellington boots, rekindling the flagging embers with soggy leaves and crumbling twigs - the bark flaking at the first touch. And the satisfaction of breathing life back into the fire, of having a small influence over the elements, the smoke permeating my stripey jumper and flared jeans to the dissatisfaction of my mother.

In the lounge I sat on the cream rug staring into the flames of the open gas fire - the outer, weaker yellow flame, the steady orange of the middle, the intense hiss of the inner blue. And like winding ballerinas, they danced just for me. Sometimes I would pull woollen strands from the shaggy rug - like tugging hairs from a chin - and toss them into the heat, watching them disintegrate into nothing. Gone. Just like that.

I was fascinated with volcanoes, the way nothing could withstand the lava flow - trees, homes, flesh - apart from the cooled outer crust containing it's path - the cold earth, the scorching earth, conspiring together.

...Then one day, I arrived home from school, to find my youngest brother sat in front of the gas fire in the play room. It was live. Turned to full. The only sound, the sssssssss of gas.  I was eight years old. My brother, I think, around six or seven months - his face inches away from the intense heat.

The. World. Stopped.

There was no one else in the room. Just my brother and I. And the fire. Where was our mother? I felt the crushing weight of responsibility - one thousand leaden pancakes on each young shoulder - that only an elder sibling could feel. I dived forwards in panic. I had no idea how to turn it off. Was it that red button? No. Could it be this dial? Click.Yes.Yes.Thank goodness. My little brother sat pudgy in his powder blue baby grow, smiling, his fringe and eyebrows singed - the plunging fear his face could have melted or his clothes set alight.

I'm not my brother's mummy. I'm just a child.

Mother was in the solitary darkness of her bedroom, suffering a migraine.

Years later, she joked about what had happened, 'he managed to turn the fire on all by himself!' 

And for decades I believed her story - the young part of me clinging to her version of the truth like ivy on a red brick wall.

Then I realised - at the age of forty one - there was no way a seven month old baby could have switched that fire on. Not a chance.

I guess my mother felt ashamed, deeply mortified by her neglect - illness had taken her to bed.

She had turned that fire on. Then forgotten. My little brother left alone.

For decades I carried her guilt - somehow felt at fault.

And to this day, whenever I see young children playing with fire, it sets off one hundred tiny bombs of panic.

Fire - I'm no longer so brazen. It fascinates and frightens.

But I will always prefer the warm to the cold, be it my back against a radiator, lying under the sun, toasting my toes or a comforting bowl of custard.

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. So do link up below and grab the badge code ... and don't forget to tweet #onceuponatime. This is a monthly meme.

You can read my other once upon a time stories here.

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