Friday, 21 February 2014

Cakes In Coco

Every week, on either a Wednesday or Thursday, sometimes both if I have enough loose change, I sit at my favourite table in Coco's Cafe, the one by the window. This is my writing spot. I will happily spend a whole afternoon in Coco thinking, writing, watching the world go by.

Lunch time today is packed, every bench and chair taken, loud chatter cutting through the mouth fulls of food...

...Women. Coco is full of women. I like the company of women, their full undulating tones; a sweet flavoured backdrop as I sit behind the lid of my laptop. Mothers. Friends. Business meetings. An eight week old infant in spotty baby gro is passed around, from arm to arm, bottle teat pushed between her tiny lips, suck, suck, suck. Happy. Milky. One man sits alone at a small circular table in black suit and striped purple shirt, he also has a laptop. They come here, the creative types.

In the afternoon it will quieten, will almost have the place to myself, imagination given full rein to gallop, to roly poly like a hard boiled egg. I find I write more productively with the background hum of conversation and music; today, it's Stevie Wonder, Superstition is playing, I L.O.V.E Superstition. My shoulders shake and sway to the rhythm; I must look a little odd. And I zone out, in a good space, focusing on the job. At my favourite table by the window - views of pitted tarmac and semi detached homes - I have somehow managed to climb a few literary peaks over the last year; prose that has elasticity (I hope), solid word counts on the beleaguered story (nearly there now).

I bring Little A to Coco. Any excuse for cake. Her regular tipple is a child size hot chocolate, milky, covered in tiny marsh mallows. A frothy chocolate moustache on her top lip.

Coco is all about smiles and friendship and warmth. I'm like a pub regular. 'What time do you call this?' says Beth with a wry grin, 'you're late today, look your table is free.' Lovely Teddie takes my order, and later, Kim does her damnedest persuading me with another slice of hummingbird. No, I'm already stuffed to the rafters. It's good service in here...

Today I had a plate of gorgeous colour; a scotch egg, it's yolk, yellow like buttercups, still runny, oozing over the plate, accompanied with rocket, salsa and purple salad. The main event, desert, a mini coffee and walnut cake, washed down with a mug of tea, a detox infusion.

This fabulous little cafe has become an important part of my daily life, my writing life. And this got me thinking. I want to write more about the details, the minutes of the day to day, the important stuff. So I had an idea, one for a new blog series; Cakes in Coco, a moment to free style, and talk vanilla sponge; cake is always a good place to start...

Care to join me in Coco? It's situated in Croxley Green - a village located between Rickmansworth and Watford - on the Watford Road.

If you like my writing, you could do two wonderful things for me (pretty please);
1. Vote for me in the MADS (best writer). 2. Preorder my anthology, Seasons Of Motherhood (published in March). Thank you. 

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The First Cut

I wanted to capture the moment.
A special one.
Her first hair cut. 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

I Want Another...

The urge, it came again the other day. Thick and full. The pull of galloping horses, wild, through canyon red and deep. The urge dragged me, over rock, through dust - ankle caught in leathery rein - wholly in control...

I want another baby.

But I don't think so, not really. The body speaks in foreign language; strange notes humming from cell and limb, rational thought sung aside. The instinct overrides the mind. Intuition, blind, has turned fantasy. The urge is a ticking bomb, an overwhelming explosion of now or never, do or die. Except I won't die, I'll simply have one child, one beautiful little girl.

There are others, my age, expecting another. How beautiful. No envy on my part, only feelings of failure; because I know what's in store. How could my brain be so cruel?

My heart feels something else; that it would be different next time. An elective cesarean; the surest deflection of trauma. I would breast feed again, I would co-sleep again; but not for as long. I would be more relaxed about nap times and bed times, and watching television. I would baby wear and baby-led wean (again). I would look after myself, take the medication, remember my needs. I would not sacrifice myself on the alter of babyhood, dissolving into a thousand undefined atoms.

But my head remembers. The difficult pregnancy; the ante natal depression. Exhausted and alone. The first two years buried under thick quilt of trauma; stratospheric anxiety, nightmares in the sun. The sleep deprivation. Teething. Nappies. Isolated; inside a bubble. The pressure to socialise; the judgement for not. Anger. Tears. Self absorption. The whispers behind my back... she's not well, she's acting strange, she's not coping, she's so demanding. The intolerance of emotional ill health. The fall out. The pain. The exclusion. How could I dare to repeat that again? Certainly not for Little A.  

I can't decide whether I am weak in body, or fiercely strong in honesty.

I look in the mirror and I do see resilience, that I am made new in motherhood; just sometimes I feel too light, a flimsy cotton night shirt.

I want to hold a baby again. My baby. To stroke, caress, to breath in her fragrance; to not have post natal illness blight those first years. That's the reason behind my desire. To do it right next time. Not to fail. To feel like a normal mum...

Friday, 7 February 2014

The Grump

Let it be said, I'm in a grump. A grouch. A crank.

A cold that's stretched a fortnight; I'm no good with a boggled head.

I usually shake the sneezes with a little rest, a mug of hot lemon water, a dash of exercise; usually yoga, and I really thought the mucus monster nipped in the bud - energy dial up, tissue box returned to shelf - the day before Little A's birthday party. S'not.

How could I have forgotten the year before? How exhausting, how dementor sucking the preschooler soiree. This year, the sandwiches and cake were ordered; but I still fought wind and rain to the shop, in the name of perfect sandwich triangles, inch thick chocolate icing, an intermission from mummy's slapdash baking. Actually, I never bake. Two hours before kick-off, a panic, the table cloths, there were no table cloths, I'd forgotten to order them. You can't have a party without plastic sheeting. After berating the omission on the to-do list, wagging finger at jelly head, I found myself back in the car, back in the city centre, back in the budget priced oasis of Pound World.

I don't remember much of it, the party. A haze of food preparation, tea making, and scattered snowflakes. There was the magician - mad cap chequered trousers, high pitched helium voice - made for the job. There was plate spinning. The parachute. The tidying up. I hardly had chance to catch up with anyone, let alone enjoy Little A throwing herself into magic tricks, chasing her friends around the hall.

The after party; all the left overs, what was left over of me. Fat bobbing balloons, a living room of latex. Gift wrap. Catching on ankles, stuck on the floor. An aunt and uncle stayed the night. The following day, another birthday to attend. And I looked on as my health - dizzy head, aching limbs - slipped far, far away, sink holing to hell.

The morning of Little A's actual birthday, Younger Dad announced, 'we are going to the Natural History Museum.' We are? Little A had a cough, hacking like a pneumatic drill. I felt rank, a pair of mouldy old pants, eyeing up the paracetamol like a box of chocolate buttons. 'We still have to go,' Younger Dad said, 'it's Little A's birthday.' And he was right of course. Lurgy or no lurgy, we were off to see the dinosaurs. Roarrr.

It wasn't long before I wilted in the Actual History Museum (Little A's words), a bag of old bones among the other old bones. Younger Dad and I cheerfully bickered...

OM 'I'm sure there was a T-Rex in the main hall last time.'
YD 'No, it's always been a Diplodocus.'
OM 'That can't be right, there was definitely a T-Rex.'
YD 'Darling, trust me, it's been a Diplodocus. Always.'
OM 'No, I'm not so sure.'
YD 'Diplodocus, I'm telling you.'
OM 'I'm sure there was a T-Rex,'...

Ailing Mummy found herself dumped in the cafe, consoling herself with a mug of hot chocolate, popping more chocolate buttons. By the time Younger Dad and Little A had returned from insects and birds, I had begun the process of petrification, a stuffed cat, staring at a pensioner's raincoat. 'It's time to go now,' Younger Dad said. I looked up at him, 'ugh?'

Tea time, back home, Little A had a roarrring temperature, while I continued petrifying on the sofa. In our jim jams we stayed for the next twenty four hours...

I've only just made it to the other side, viral free; but I'm still in a grump. Meh.

Do you breeze through colds, or, like me, moan on your death bed?

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Winter Wonderland

This time, a winter wonderland.
White and blue.
Snowflakes on the table,
caught under shoe.

The belle of the ball,
she piles her presents high.
With friends, with family,
with Cheshire Cat smile.

The magician has a talking dog,
pulls rabbit out of hat,
grey and fluff, named Pancake,
the children squeal and pat.

Chequered paper plates, and cups.
Sandwiches, sausages, crisps,
iced rings, choc fingers; a seventies spread,
no fruit or sculptured veg.

Happy birthday is sung,
one, two, three lengthy times,
the candles blown out,
cake in green serviettes, tat in party bags.

They came again, my visual friends,
But this time far away...
Just pictures, no emotions,
a jaded silent movie, daguerreotype lens.

The midwife, the induction.
Curled over bean bag, timing deep breath,
Not enough in centimetres,
No time to stretch.

The table. The bright lights.
The knife.
Get my baby out safely.
That's all I care this night.

Out. Out. Out.
Memory be gone.
For she is here now.
Just her, is all.

Happy birthday to my baby, my sweetest, bestest friend.

If you like my writing, why not pre-order my little book, Seasons of Motherhood, launch March 2014.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Seasons Of Motherhood

Wondered why I've been so quiet of late?

I've compiled a beautiful little book. Twenty four pages of prose, stories and accidental poetry, all gorgeously illustrated by the wonderful Helen Braid.

Its printed on recycled paper, a natty A6 pocket size, and limited to 100 copies.

You can pre-order your copy here.

The official launch, March 2014.
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