Sunday 29 June 2014

A Little Relief

It's the morning after. I'm tired. So darn tired. And the car's movement is making me more sleepy.

'...and this is the order of the day,' he continues at the wheel, 'we're going to test drive (this car) and (that car), and (this car) is brilliant and it's got (this) and (that) and (all this other stuff), and I can't wait to try (that car), it's completely electric, just like a toy...'

'Uh huh.' I look out of the car window, blinking at the sunshine. The flowers lining numerous front gardens merge forming seamless lines of colour; red and yellow, and orange and purple. I feel quite dizzy. And my head is mulling over the last 48 hours. Or I should say it can't escape immediate history. I am not very present. I am one of those merging flowers.

The memories are random and shoot like darts. Wine at 11.30 am. The Wensleydale on sticks. The straps of a new bra digging into my shoulders. The faces. The numerous hello's. But not enough time. The amazing discovery that jeggings are really rather comfortable. And the not-so-small matter of winning an award. It hasn't sunk in. I am still in shock. I remember shaking. I remember squeezing the hands of two close blogging friends. I remember saying s**t and thank you into the microphone. I remember all the hugs. I remember the celebratory curry. But most of all I remember the aftermath; sitting dazed on the end of the bed in the hotel room, responding to tweets, watching fireworks pop and sparkle and cascade through the opened window.

But one word forms at the core of my thinking. Enough. And another. Overwhelmed. And more follow, stringing themselves together like spaghetti. You've earned it. It's time to step back. You need to reassess. One of the things I enjoyed the most about Britmums Live this year was sitting outside underneath a colourful canopy of soft artificial flowers. There were flowers in wellington boots and flowers in watering cans hanging from the clear ceiling. It gave the conference a festival feel, especially with the wine and cake. And being in this space gifted me a quiet moment to reflect. I've been writing this blog for three years now. What now? Where next?

I've been forging plans. To do's for the house renovation. Lists for the summer; fun activities, the reduction of piles of admin neglected in the paperwork basket. In the months ahead, I want to read and work on my novel. I want to spot faces in puffy July clouds and water the over growing flowers. I want to spend time listening to the blackbird's charming song. But most of all I want to spend an uninterrupted summer with my daughter; it's about me and her before she begins reception this September. So I have decided to take a two month break from blogging and social media. I will probably check-in here and there, and I do intend to continue reading my favourite blogs, but I may not comment as much as I usually do (sorry). My head and heart needs this. I will be back in September with #oneweek; I fancy one last cycle, one final hurrah.

It feels a relief writing the last line of this post.

Thank you to everyone who reads Older Mum in a Muddle, and for all your lovely comments and support. Have a wonderful summer!

Wednesday 18 June 2014

A Small History in Breakfast

...And that's how it was back then. A bowlful of pure caster sugar. Breakfast hasn't changed much since. Frosties. Ricicles. A thick layer of those sweet, sweet granules on mushy weetabix soaking up the cream of the warmed milk. Ready Break with a huge dollop of golden syrup. More syrup than pulverised oats. Globules of gruel spatted all over my school tunic. And years later - a little taller, hair mulleted, the novelty of breakfast time TV - I'd moved on, my tastes changed. Chocolate Ready Break or a runny egg with a sprinkle of salt and toasted soldiers, worrying about the ripened dome under my left nostril, watching Ulrika Jonsson predict another rainy day. By the first kiss I was enjoying the complexities of a mouthful of muesli, or cheating muesli as it was known; a pile of powdery Alpen. I can't for the life of me remember what I ate on the mornings of my O and A level results. Maybe a Belgium waffle soaked in real butter. Certainly not a Pop Tart. No, I can't recall having one of those.

My twenties were the toast years, and the odd bowl of Cornflakes. Always thick-cut marmalade, and the joys of apricot jam. All through the under-graduate years, and the long weekends spinning vinyl. The only breakfast possible in the subsequent haze of a night-long rave. Toast for all those hang overs. Toast on the morning I waved goodbye to my northern roots and headed south in a white transit van.

My thirties was a decade of revision and rediscovery. I returned to porridge. Proper oats this time, swapping the semi-skimmed for thin cartons of exotic rice milk. It was a revelation, and a moment of self-honesty. I'd never really enjoyed claggy cow juice. Always did what was expected of me. Drank it from a mini milk bottle during morning break time. Poured it begrudgingly over that first meal of the day. But secretly it tasted bleuh. Now I was all growed-up - individuating and the like - I could release myself from its milky yoke, could emancipate myself from the diary aisle. And then I experimented. Maybe it was the boredom of the admin jobs. Maybe it was the heady expansion from a part-time counselling course. But I went through a short phase of 7.00 am zen. A bowl of quinoa stewed in rice milk with a dash of cinnamon and quartered cashew nuts. Perseverance in every bite. It didn't taste great. I have a keen memory about that time of a business trip to Seattle, of mango oatmeal and a stack of buttermilk pancakes lathered in maple syrup. Or maybe that was a dream. Maybe it was only wish fulfilment.

And there were the special breakfasts. The eggs benedict the day before the wedding. The perfect fry-up the morning after. The dishes of sweet omali and mild curry on honeymoon. The bowls and bowls of Greek yogurt with chopped strawberries and pistachios and swirls of honey every day of the first tri-mester. The packets and packets of any cereal - Rice Crispies, Shredded Wheat, Cheerios - I could get my hands on throughout the third.

Now I sit and watch her make her own history in breakfast while I have a cup of camomile and wait until my stomach is ready. She gnaws her way through the mini-cereals. She tucks into a plate of hearty scrambled eggs. Her favourite is a bowl of nutella porridge. 'Mummy,' she says, 'can I have a teaspoon with just nutella on it too?' I always oblige. I watch as she turns the bowl around, picking away at the cooling porridge from its top and sides. 'Mummy, I've drawn a fish in it!' Those wonderfully comforting sounds of her unbridled satisfaction. A jolly good start to the day.

What do you have for breakfast?          


Saturday 14 June 2014

What he does...

It's all in the detail, what he does. I don't think I could ever be as fun or as devil-may-care. Spontaneity is what he has, and long arms that take her down to the waters edge or push her up a tree. And something else that I fail to possess, in spades. Adventure. Up his sleeve, spilling out from his pockets. I'm about the internal. He's all about the external. I read her books and role play with her dolls. I explain new words and encourage her to sail those uncharted terrains of her mind. Who is she today? What spell is she going to perform? Why exactly are all those teddies piled under the duvet like that? He pretends to be a robot. He chases her about the garden. He flaps his heavy arms, a man fairy in a crew-neck sweater; bless him, he can't fly. 'I'm coming to get you.' 'I'm coming to get you,' he says chasing after her. She doubles over giggling, he's the funniest Daddy ever. He counts. She hides. He helps her onto the highest rungs of the climbing frame. 'Don't worry, I've got my eye on her; and anyway, if she falls - but she won't, I promise you - that's how she'll learn.' He shows her the limits and gently extends them a little bit further.

He tells her how beautiful she is, how much he loves her. Daddy cuddles are the best ever. He's glad he had a girl, not one for kicking a ball about, not one for cops and robbers and shoot-em up games. Together they build lego, work out jigsaw puzzles, play dominoes. Together they tease out the plastic pieces from the patient, touching the sides on purpose, laughing at the shock of the buzz and the flashing nose. Once they made a fairy house from cereal boxes with a door and a chimney. She painted it pink and red and yellow and green. They bake rice crispie cakes and chocolate buns, and huggle together on the sofa with a biscuit, watch Frozen or Tinkerbell again and again.

He is her bestest, most favourite Daddy ever. (I keep reminding her she only has the one). But for the past twelve months he was away on assignment from Monday till Friday, and she missed him terribly. In his absence they spoke on the phone, or chatted in person over Skype. And through the laptop she watched her Daddy draw silly faces on his whiteboard, or at her request, draw abstract renditions of a nose or an eye, describing how each one worked with deft arrows and manic squiggles. Every evening she had another query for him. And every evening like a seasoned open-university pro, he had his marker pen at the ready. How he relishes the role of teacher and mentor. On our way to Wales, he explained the mechanics of the Seven Bridge. How far it stretched. How tall it was. What kept it from collapsing. 'We're going up! We're on the bridge Daddy! I love the holder-uppers!'

They have their rituals, their things. On Saturday morning it's scrambled eggs on toast. On Sunday they watch the racing cars together. When he mows the lawn, she follows from behind holding the lead, preventing it from becoming tangled. He tells her his own special stories as he tucks her up in bed. She accompanies him when he has a haircut, to the dump, to the car wash, when he needs a new pair of glasses. The daddy stuff.

Together they are the right fit, a beautiful father-daughter combination. Younger Dad is a wonderful mix of warmth and sensitivity, confidence and bright thought. This weekend we are celebrating him. I couldn't have asked for a better father for our child.

Happy fathers day Younger Dad.

(this post was inspired by Dorky Mum's Boy Love).

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Tears in Welsh

Tap. Tap. Tap.
'Does that hurt?'
Tap. Tap. Tap.
'Does that hurt?'

The sea was most days so noisy. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine it, what else it might sound like. But it sounded just like the sea, rough and tumbling and bubbling. Behind me lay a protective bank of pebbles that stretched the length of the beach. Blue stones. Purple stones. Cream stones. Some with lines, some mottled with spots. Piles and piles of muted colours. We collected the shells she and I, tiny things of mauve and palest green. On the days of rain, it was hard distinguishing between sea and sky. Both heavy. Both grey. But one choppy with temper; surfers falling away from their boards, breaking the illusion of continuity between water and air.

'F**k,' I said holding the hot water bottle to my cheek. 'F**k. F**k. F**k. Then the outcry. Then the tears. Everything felt like agony. Hot. Cold. The bumps along the road on our way to the emergency appointment. The dentist prodded and poked, his instruments, precise and clinical, laid out like a silver army on the trolley. 'You have a deep pocket,' he said, 'full of bacteria.' 'Uh-uh,' I said with his finger stuffed inside my cheek. It might have to come out was his prognosis, gave me a prescription for antibiotics and painkillers, sent me on my way, 'see your dentist as soon as you get home.'

It still hurt. A lot. Stabbing and intense, like boulders cracking thick ice. Wednesday night I couldn't sleep, was sat up-right in bed rocking backwards and forwards like a child, my arms wrapped around my chest, my jaw hung slack like the open cavity of a basking shark. By 3 am I'd had enough. I pulled the covers aside, climbed down the stairs. I watched a lame movie on the ipad, rocking without thought in the leather chair. Dawn appeared, the first I'd seen in many, many years; the sun like a fresh orange over the hills, the tide ebbing, quiet behind the window, shy and sleepy. Covering the nearby field was a sheen of dew kisses like a blanket of candy floss. I wondered how satisfying it would be to run barefoot in that grass, feel the cool against my ankles. I held my hand against my cheek, watched gulls flying in pairs, heard the crows echoing inside the chimney in the cottage next door. Anything to distract me. How could tooth ache be so all consuming? Reduce me to this? Crawling the walls. And at this time in the morning FFsakes?

Hooray for Younger Dad who looked after her; built sand castles during the day, told her stories before bed. I hardly saw her during our week long stay on the Pembrokeshire coast. Too tired, in bed, not joining in. So I attempted sleep in the spare twin in her room, anything to feel close to her, hear her movement and breath. Each day she appeared with more colour in her cheeks. Each day she gave me one of her gentle hugs.

We left two days early. 'Poor Mummy has a really hurty tooth,' she said. 

And now I need a holiday.

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