Thursday, 17 December 2015

The days shoes defined my life

And it's all my mother's fault...

The beginning of the story:
I ran away from home.

The end of the story:
I have a collection of shoes. 

Lined up and on show on my top floor, my story of shoes translate through decades of stories and adventures. Through periods of partying shown in scuffed heels and even the odd old skool trainer playing homage to the warehouse parties of old, there's rack upon rail of shoes taking up valuable space in the house - but I can't bring myself to part with even one pair.

There's basically a shoe for every occasion - the shoes I wore in my first job in PR, the expensive shoes I justified the purchase of because they were sort of in the sale, the summer sandals that have walked beaches from Morecambe to Mexico - and of course the boots that have downed shots in the snow. 

From disco dancing to dog walking my shoe collection is pretty large.

And yesterday I realised it all dates back to the day I ran away from home. 

The day I realised - aged 9 - that if you had on the right pair of shoes they (possibly) gave you permission to do (almost) anything.

I was nine. It was an intense period of my life. Primary school Bulldog 123 was high on the agenda (was I ever going to catch the fastest boy in the school), I was learning to do the rising trot and wondering why mum was just not letting me do what I wanted to do in my independent life as a mature know it all nine year old.

So I told her straight. I had demands. I didn't want to make blackcurrant cheescake on a Saturday afternoon. And I did want to walk Blackie (the rabbit) on his lead whenever I wanted.

If we couldn't reach an amicable agreement, I would run away from home. 

I would leave, go out the door, not to return here anymore. 

That would learn her.

Except. She offered to help me pack. And she did. She actually packed my suitcase for me until there was only my going away outfit to decide until I flounced out of her life forever.

And it came down to my shoes. All I remember about that defining outfit were my shoes. My beautiful slightly pointy black patent kitten heels (what was she thinking letting me have kitten heels at that age).

Anyway those black shoes were the equivalent of Dorothy's shiny red ones and they were going to transport me to the yellow brick road of my dreams.

Bags packed. Shoes on. I was ready to go. 

Mum handed me the case and saw me out of the front door shutting it soundly behind me signalling the start of my the third step down.

Where I sat and waited. And realised I had no plan. And quite crucially nowhere to go. 

And was now a little bit worried that mum really was quite happy for me to leave home and forage for my own future. After all she would be saving on some significant school fees.

Anyway - thankfully there is a happy ending to this dark tale of childhood trauma.  

She gave me a good ten hours* sitting on that third step to completely freak me out, all I could do was stare at the one beautiful thing left in my life - my slightly pointy black patent kitten heels - before she opened the front door and welcomed me back home like the long lost, fiercely independent traveller I was. Narnia had nothing on me.

Back in the security of the mother land, my shoes remained on - a marker in the sand for something I almost did.

And so my love affair with shoes was begun - maybe hoping each new pair will take me on a new adventure - or perhaps that mum will always rescue me (profound).

Today up there on the top floor of the house, I have rather a number of markers in the sand, all marking different adventures but none quite as special as those black patent kitten heels.

And mum kept trying to make me leave home - only really succeeding when I was 28 years old. 


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

A Silent Sunday

So that was the weekend that was.

There you are planning a silent Sunday. 

A day of mooching. 

A halcyon homage to bimbling.

A day of doing nothing. Nada. Not a sausage. The plan is a blank sheet of paper.

A day devoted to chilling. An easy Sunday.

It all starts so well. 

A long lie (well until 9am). I remember those good old days when I had on my rose tinted specs when a long lie meant lying in luxury until noon, but hey you gotta take what you can when you can. 

So there I was - a long lie, slowly waking up, wandering downstairs to get a proper coffee that has bubbled to pouring perfection on the stove before wandering back upstairs to sink back into that delicious duvet to enjoy a slurp of the most important drink of the day.

Then chaos claps on its hat and reigns down harder and faster that the storm of Barney can unleash its hell. 

Enter stupid dog. The dog bounds in. The stupid dog bounds on the bed, coffee spills onto lovely clean duvet.

Then small things wake. 

Then a lovely autumnal dog walk which mainly involves a lost dog and four small things skiing down a slope of autumn leaves (which to be fair looked like fun), a dog in the rain overflow channel (equals a minging dog that still stinks), a wet dog, sodden kids and frankly not enough coffee to drown out the noise.

A respite was offered. A coffee with a friend. Thirty minutes to chew the cud, actually drink a full cup of coffee whilst repeatedly asking the 13yo and 9yo to leave me alone for just ten minutes so I could have one grown up conversation.

Then a quick shopping trip for promised new trainers for the 9yo (old trainers were presenting holes found during sodden dog walk) followed by the Tesco dash for the week's packed lunches (would have gone to Aldi but parking was an issue) and oh sh*t forgot to wash the school uniforms.

Two hasty washes later and a tea with friend beckons. 

The 9yo then tries to wear his favourite shirt (still wet on the radiator after earlier hasty washing), I remove said wet shirt to a sulky face and persuade 9yo to wear a dry item of clothing from his drawer as the 13 yo informs me she's got a sore throat (join the club) and we dash to the local Italian for an long and lazy tea.

A restaurant, a steak and a 13yo that decides she's not feeling well and frankly a bit faint - complete with comical head wobbling at the table.

Dramatics ensue, restaurant abandoned (steak inhaled, wine abandoned). 13 yo voms.

Vom cleaned up. 13 yo put to bed (complete with additional dramatics - turns out her nose is more blocked than anybody's nose has ever been blocked before).

9yo put to bed.

13yo traumatized because she can't breathe through her nose. Vicks applied.

Inhales wine. Me not the 13yo - she's still whimpering at the loss of nose breathing.

Bed beckons. The duvet greets me.

Air punches to a successful Silent Sunday.*

Next time I plan an easy Sunday, I'm just gonna run a half marathon. It would be easier.

*That was a lie, falls in bed in a knackered stupor waiting for the ticking timebomb that is the 13yo's midnight vomming.

Friday, 13 November 2015

A letter to my friend

Dear beautiful friend,

You've gone. It's finally sinking in.

I'm sitting here surrounded by work, we have bid you farewell and then it strikes me - there's no more texting.

I've realised this is when I'm going to miss you most - on the stupid, small, insignificant moments when I would text you to see if you're in for a brew, for a skive, to have a whinge, to talk about the new beau in my life.

It's those small moments that made our friendship - there weren't any big holidays, we didn't even go on that many mental nights out, but you were part of the fabric of my life, the day to day intertwined happenings of the small stuff.

The moments where we simply sat and chewed the cud, talked about nonsense - and as it turns out I can't even remember half the conversations.

What it has made me realise is what makes a friend (well to be honest I sort of knew that already) - and your illness and passing - has also made me realise how lucky and blessed I am.

In this quagmire of grief, there's also so much to smile about. Turns out grief ricochets likes ripples in the pond, in the epicentre is your hub and two small things and then as the ripples span out like skimming stones there's a support network of people for every ripple in that pond. As I tried to help you and yours, people were helping me and mine, making me thankful for all the beautiful friends (and family) I have in my own life.

So while I sit here - missing you in this moment, in a week where I have also been grateful for the extra time I suddenly have in my life - instead of texting you, I've text other beautiful friends and got replies that have made me smile and made me grateful for all my blessings.

There's a saying - don't sweat the small stuff - but it's the small stuff that counts. It's the small stuff that grows into the big things - and frankly I like the small stuff.

The small moments that make you belly laugh in life, the stupid notes the small things write, walking the dog in the rain and looking up to be slapped in the face by a great big fat leaf, going to the gym and getting a random hug from a spin girl because no words are needed.

It's these things that frame our life, that become our constants and our stories. And it's the small things I will mainly try and remember - if my memory wasn't so pants.



Friday, 21 August 2015

Sunshine, small things and (not too much) sangria....

Single parenting in the sunshine....

Being a single parent for the past five years has thrown a number of curve balls - some that have landed loudly, repetitively bouncing in the hallway in the shape of another football and some in the shape of my head banging against a wall....

Luckily, I'm well past that first year of single parent insanity where every new challenge seems like a hurdle that grew bigger than Mount Everest every time I tried to climb it. Now it's rare I have a mountain to climb, and the world of single parenting is really a walk in the park.* 

I rarely blog about the whole single parenting schizzle because it's mainly not about me being a single parent. 

It's just about me being a parent. And I'm single...(some of the time).

But there are times when carrying that single parent label becomes bigger than it should be - it moves from being a small identichip I happen to have to a mahoosive billboard advertising my status.

There's the misconceptions - yes I'm single, I'm not going to steal your husband or the yes I'm single, I'm not going to suddenly make your mrs misbehave. 

Thankfully for me this rarely happens mainly because I have a pretty fantastic group of friends but I know they still exist. And in general I've been misbehaving with all these friends for many years well before I was single. 

In the main, I reckon I have nailed the whole single parent thing. The cellar bootcamp for the small things was one of the more successful parenting techniques I employed and copious amounts of wine have also helped the flow of the single parent journey.

And then this year...the dawn of the summer holidays. A joyous time in every (single) parent's calendar - right up there with bank holidays and Christmas. 

What to do. When. How to plan. Who with. 

And then the momentous decision - to go it alone.

A holiday with the small things. Just me. And them. The three of us. One adult (debatable) and two children.

Before I could wimp out I booked it. Ready. Willing. And rather nervous.

And then we arrived. The airport negotiated perfectly. The flight a breeze. The sun shining. The apartment perfect (with the door blocked at night by two suitcases and a dressing table in case anyone tried to get in).

It was the most chilled - I would even say chill-axed if it wasn't one of the worst words in the new dictionary of today - I have been in a long time.

Just me. And them. And 3,245 games of Uno, 2,765 games of Go Fish, 10,000 attempts to get three of us to swim across the pool whilst riding the giant inflatable crocodile (that was a good look in a bikini), four shows, three diving competitions, two doggy paddle races and one bike ride.

I even turned my emails off. Obviously I didn't turn off the 24/7 support text service from friends and me mum on every given detail of the holiday. That would have been a ridiculous concept - and a step too far.

In summary - one of the most relaxing holidays ever - I even swam underwater to beat them in ALL swimming races. No prizes for second place in this family.

There were times I was conscious of the big fat single parent arrow that hovered above my head announcing my presence to all the smug married couples around me but I mainly didn't care cos we had fun and we did what we do every time we are together and I am relaxed - we mainly laughed.  The constant (all inclusive) supply of wine obviously helped. Although disappointingly it appears that the 13 year old isn't allowed to order me wine from the bar.

Perhaps most importantly it gave me proper time with the small things - and as it turns out they're quite good fun to be around. Well most of the time. Except when they decided it would be a really great idea to get me with the water guns when I was particularly relaxed with a good book - then shouty mum returned.

I did it. A summer holiday with my small things and I didn't feel that the big fat single parent arrow glowed too large above me head.

And the best bit....the small things told me it was the best holiday they had EVER been on. *Air Punch*

And the second best bit. I came home. They went away with their dad (that's not the second best bit) and I buggered off for three days of drinking in the sun with my friends with no parent guilt following me around tapping me on my shoulder (now that's the second best bit).

But for the record I never want to see another game of Uno again ever. Or Go Fish. Well maybe until next year when I'm thinking we go Greek Island hopping ...

*walk in the park aided by wine

Thursday, 18 June 2015

The humble hankerchief - and the checklist

The story of the hankerchief.

Bear with me on this one.  It's a story of the humble hankerchief. And the checklist.

The hankerchief - a square piece of cotton a gentleman keeps in one's pocket - and then snots all over and put back in one's pocket.

The checklist - the non negotiables you have on an unwritten checklist that allows you to pick a mate, a partner, a boyf, a lover, a friend. The unwritten checklist covers a number of different pointers - and differs from one person to another.

Not only does the said checklist differ from one person to another - it also changes as you get older.

Reaching my middle youth and finding myself single made me think about my checklist. It heralded the beginnings of a new checklist.

My checklist in my naive 20s was relatively simple.

Someone hot. Subconsciously I think I wanted to find a mate. Someone I could build a family with. Have beautiful children with.
I rocked that box. Tick. Big. Tick.

And then life changes and your outlook changes. Circumstances change and what was so important in your twenties - or even thirties - has a slightly different accent in your (ahem) forties (early forties I hasten to add).

Suddenly single and embracing a single life, with the aid of a bottle (or two) of fine wine (or whatever was on offer at Tesco) and good friends - the conversation turned to what one is searching for and what one should be searching for in a potential partner now - in the here and now - in the present moment.

Turns out the new checklist is quite different to that that there one in my twenties.
I'm not so interested in the breeding potential. I am interested in friendship.
I am interested in respect. And I am wanting someone who gets my back.

And still someone hot - preferably with the looks of say Bradley Cooper or even Damien Lewis.

I'm told I'm too fussy (from those good friends mentioned above). 

I'm told I need to look beyond my need for someone who is 6ft or over (a girl needs to wear heels).

And then you meet someone. Someone who doesn't necessarily fit into the exact checklist - but all the same ticks a lot of boxes.  And then you realise they have a hankie.

A hankie. They blow their nose into a hankie. They put said hankie back into their pocket. And then put it into a washing machine.

They even occasionally offer me a hankie. I managed to hide my silent gip at the thought.

In the halcyon days of a new romance the hankie means nothing. It's something that doesn't need to be on the checklist. It's a hankie - a piece of cotton that in the old days defined a gentleman.

It's fine. I can cope with a piece of cotton. Everything else is okay. (Except the height but again that's remarkably okay).

And then it ends.

And I realise the hankie is so not okay.

The hankie is wrong. And it wasn't just the hankie. Turns out the hankie wasn't big enough. There was a migration to a TEA TOWEL.

The day he blew his nose into a tea towel (thankfully his) marked the end of time.

And time to review the checklist. A little bit more attention to detail is required on the non negotiables. Some caveats needs to be added.

We've got to have fun. Be friends. We've got to laugh. A propensity to drink fine wine - especially on a winesday is essential.

Someone who respects me. Someone who has my back.

A gentleman.

And right there at the top of the list.......someone who doesn't have a hankie.

I have a new checklist.

Or maybe. I simply throw the checklist away.

I just count my blessings for the fantabulous life I have. For the fact I have never and will never wash a hankie.

For the beautiful small things I have. (who also are not allowed hankies...or sleeves)
For the fab times we have.
For the real friends where we laugh until the tears drip down my cheeks.
For the family who are just always there.

The checklist is out of the window.

Today is about the here and now.

And no hankies. Definitely no hankies. They are wrong.*

*apologies to anyone that uses a hankie
** the above is a lie. Stop using them. They're wrong.