New Year…

This week’s column. First published in the Portsmouth News, Tuesday 31st January 2013.

 

As you read this, we will be on the brink of a new year. Christmas will be over, Tesco will have the Easter eggs on the shelves, and you may or may not be getting ready to go out tonight.

There is a touch of melancholy about New Year. Our mood can depend largely upon what has happened during the months that we are now saying goodbye to, and the swift passage of time reminds us of how transient life really is.

Before Christmas, my husband and I took our girls up to London to watch Matilda. We sat on the train, the stark landscape whistling by and the purple fingers of a winter dawn stretching across the skyline. We had booked the tickets during the heat of summer, and now here we were, December already and the much longed-for Matilda Day upon us.

I watched their little faces during the journey: India who is nearly eight, and Amelie who is apparently eighteen, though only five in human years, and my mind kept churning over the old cliches. Doesn’t time fly? Where does the time go? 

My hands still remember their infant forms; the weight of their fragile, wobbly heads when they were born. Vulnerable, tiny skulls, bathed beneath transparent wisps of hair. Yet here they are, changing every day, and time flowing by us like a river.

I think back over New Years already passed, and consider New Years yet to come. I have memories of my parents celebrating, back when the 80s were in full swing and people still drank Pernod, and I wonder what my daughters will recall when they are older?

Less than glamorously, this is likely to be me and my husband in our pyjamas, munching a takeaway, and waffling nostalgic drivel for the days when Clive James was on the telly. Because, I must confess, there is something about the enforced jollity of New Year that makes me want to stay indoors, snuggled on the sofa, face stuffed in the Quality Street.

This flies in the face of tradition of course. One is supposed to be out on the 31st, knee deep in booze and frolicking on the freezing streets, lighting paper lanterns and giving not a thought to the questionable wisdom of sending air-born incendiary devices off into the night sky.

So, wherever you may be as the last sun goes down on 2013, I wish a happy new year to you and yours. May your days be merry and bright.

 

And lo, I can urinate alone again!

Last week’s column, a little later than usual due to festivities! 

First printed in Portsmouth News, 24th December 2013.

 

Since my youngest daughter started school in September, the two most noticeable differences are that I can: a.) Urinate alone, and b.) Meet friends and have full-length conversations.

I recently saw my friends Kirsty and Mandy. We originally met at a First Time Mums’ Group and have partaken of many unfinished conversations ever since. None of us knew what to expect of the group, but fears of perfect mothers who produced 100% organic breast-milk and knitted their own nursing bras from the virgin wool of their home-reared sheep, were proven to be unfounded.

Instead, we all sat in a state of sleep-deprived shock, tucking our baggy tummies into the maternity jeans that we were still wearing, and comparing birth stories. We were thrilled to hear that a fireman was going to visit our group for a home safety talk, and I believe that a small part of each of us died the day that he arrived; all 120 years of him, sporting the physical prowess of one who could extinguish a match. Just.

 Originally, we had planned our lunch for November, but Mandy’s daughter used her child-radar to sense that her mother was about to start a conversation, and promptly vomited in school. We postponed, and this time kept our phones on silent, blocked the schools’ numbers just in case, and changed our names by deed poll for the afternoon.*

It was a shock, this sitting in a proper restaurant business; none of the staff offered us crayons or balloons, and I suspect that our waiter for the afternoon, Dave, was mightily impressed by the highbrow content of our conversations: children, husbands, breast implants, children.

Mandy in particular will thank me for sharing her Quote of the Day, which best demonstrates that although we can finish conversations, perhaps those of us whose brains have been boggled by children should not be allowed to. Upon hearing that Kirsty had read Paula Yates’ autobiography, Mandy enquired as to whether or not Ms Yates had written it ‘before she died’. I rest my case.

 As I type this, the bliss of our childfree afternoon is but a memory, and my youngest daughter is trying to insert a small plastic Barbie bicycle up my nostril. I’ve told her that ‘Mummy is working’, but I think she assumes I am suffering from delusions of grandeur.  

 Were it not for the mummy-mates, then I would fear that the surgeon had removed my brains along with the babies during my c-sections. Long live the mummy support networks.

 (* I jest.)

 

Trimming the Tree: Fantasy v Reality

This week’s column…

How I imagined the trimming of the tree before I had children:

 Husband would carry said tree into the house, children joyful and humming festive tunes behind him. We would be sporting Christmas jumpers, smiling beatifically at one another across the branches, congratulating ourselves on a splendid choice of festive foliage.

 We would pop the tree in a bucket, dear little children scampering around our ankles, passing us their tasteful, homemade decorations, whilst we exclaimed over their obvious talents for design and engineering.

 Once the tree was finished, we would stand back in admiration, arms around each other, perhaps crooning a verse or two of White Christmas, swaying gently. We would settle down to watch It’s A Wonderful Life, assorted pets at our ankles, and bowls of homemade, organic popcorn on our knees.

 Reality:

 Husband wrestles beast of tree through house, needles flying, whilst barking military-style orders at self and children, ‘GET OUT OF THE WAY, GET OUT OF THE WAY’, on a loop.

 Tree is hoisted into its stand and, after being inspected for rogue wildlife (The Year of the Spider’s Nest has not been forgotten), I hold the trunk whilst husband secures it in place. He instructs me to let go. I do. Tree falls over. Repeat.

 Husband plus self are now red in the face, sweating, and fairy lights are in knots the likes of which a scout leader would be proud. The girls begin flinging their glittered-bog-roll-on-a-string efforts at the branches, and the dog prances past, tail high in the air, taking out as many decorations in one sweep as possible.

 Once decorations are in place, and I have surreptitiously moved each of the children’s to the back of the tree, the sheer girth of the beast becomes apparent. Husband wields kitchen scissors with a flourish and hacks the branches, thereby removing the necessity to punch our way past them each time we enter the room.

 Staggering back, we collapse onto the sofa, throwing all manner of processed snacks in the direction of the girls. We settle down to grit our teeth through the Cbeebies’ Panto, whilst trying hard to ignore the cats (half way up the tree), the dog (cocking a leg on it), and the steady sound of needles falling, signalling a tree that will be but a glorified stick festooned with lights by Christmas Day.  

 Or, you could be our neighbours, mentally scarred by their 7 footer collapsing on them during Sports Personality of the Year, 2012. ‘Tis the season to be jolly.

 

First published in the Portsmouth News, Tuesday 17th December 2013.

Looking after the oldsters…

Bit of a serious one this week, but it will be more than made up for next week when it’s back to fun and frolics….

First published in Portsmouth News, Tuesday 10th December 2013.

 

Grandad Lush: the man, the legend. Pompey born and bred, and ninety years young on his next birthday. This fact astounds my daughters, partly because they think that anything older than forty is akin to dead, and partly because of his enthusiasm and energy for life. He finally retired when he was 75, shutting the doors of his last business, Shoot Pool on Fratton Road, in 1999.

 

My little girls adore their great-grandad, whose real name is Alf. (They were dismayed upon realising that this was not spelt with an ‘E’). There is a sense of comforting nostalgia that emanates from our grandparents; they hold so much of our past, yet sadly they get so little say as to what will happen in our futures.

 

I read this week of Esther Rantzen and her newly launched Silver Line. This is a senior take on Child Line, and elderly people can ring it should they find themselves alone or needing help. For some this may be because they have been widowed or their families have moved away, but for others, it is because they are ignored by, or not valued by, their relatives.

 

This seems achingly sad to me. Apparently half of all 75 year olds live alone, and 1 in 10 experiences ‘intense loneliness’. Surely the people we should respect the most in our families are those who have lived a life, who are experienced and knowledgeable and without whom we ourselves would never have existed?

 

There can be a pressure to look after our elders, and perhaps a fear as we see who we may become, but even if residential care becomes necessary, we must make time for regular visiting and telephone calls. I am trying to raise my daughters to respect their elders (after all, one day I may need them to wipe my bottom, so I need to keep them on side), but more than this, I want them to appreciate their elders.

 

We attach labels to people in life; the teenage lout, the doddering OAP, the yummy mummy. Whatever our age or gender, there is a detrimental stereotype to accompany it. None of us has any idea of who we will become in old age, but I do know that I feel exactly the same inside now as I did when I was eighteen. I cannot imagine this ever changing, and I’ve a sneaking suspicion that Grandad Lush would agree.

 

Silver line: 0800 4 70 80 90

The pros & cons of a papier mache donkey head…

This week’s column, first published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 3rd December 2013.

 

The gospel according to Family Matters: And so it was decreed in the first week of November, that lowly parents everywhere be sent out in search of tea towels, old coat hangers, and the papier mache heads of assorted farmyard animals.

 ‘Thou shalt find these laying in the dressing up box’, declared the primary schools, ‘and if not, thou shalt simply visit Tesco, Asda, or any other leading retail establishment worth its festive salt.’

 Ah, the season of the nativity. Cue tears of emotion (the parents), tears of the over-wrought (hopefully not the parents), and tears of the pre-school sibling, who you will have to bring with you, as it is practically the law that no matter how many nursery sessions they attend during the week, the school nativity will fall when they are due to be at home with you. It is also the law that said younger sibling weep, shout or defecate throughout the entire performance, no matter how many chocolate santas you proffer from your bag of bribes.

 It’s a funny old thing this dressing-up business, because whereas it was once confined to December, it now seems that most of the academic year is spent with parents procuring all manner of costumes, whilst their children walk around sporting the vaguely unhealthy glow that only an especially stubborn face-paint can leave behind.

 So far this year, my daughters have been: Elmer the Elephant, a Roman, a Victorian, an alien (who knew it was so tricky to attach a papier mache red-veined eyeball to a hair-band, I ask you?) and now, a star.

 That’s a lot of costume changes, and a lot of money if not done carefully, but if it adds to our children’s enthusiasm for learning, then who are we to complain? After all, this is when the mums come into their own; if you don’t have a life-size donkey’s bottom to wrestle out of your wardrobe, one of your friends surely will.

 My eldest daughter, India, started junior school this year, and had I known that last December was to be her final foray into the land of the nativity, then I would have made more of an effort. I am unsure as to what this effort would have entailed – perhaps less of the dainty tissue dabbing and more of a hysteria-tinged hawking into a hanky? But I would certainly have milked the moment for all it was worth.

 Luckily this year I do have Amelie’s Year R production, and her turn as a star, to look forward to.  I fear that the days when my children still enjoy sporting a costume with gusto are numbered, and so I intend to savour every sticky, sparkly, farmyard-bottomed endeavour whilst these irreplaceable moments still exist. I shall make sure to pack my hanky.

 

 

Twitter: @lushnessblog