Tuesday, 23 September 2014

“There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.”

A friend in need is a friend indeed...





It's not often words fail me. As most people that know me will testify.

My career has been mostly dedicated to the art of the written word, the spin of our beautiful language and yet so often in the last month I have found myself unable to find the words to describe life going on around me.

My beautiful friend (BF) has cancer. Well she doesn't just have cancer. She's frankly battling cancer and if that's not bad enough the crappy chemo is also trying to take her down. (I would replace crappy with another much more severe c-word but various other beautiful friends would really tell me off).

But this blog today isn't about that battle. It's not about the tears of sadness, frustration and anger we've all cried recently, it's about the beauty of human spirit.

I live in what can only be described as a community. Some of us live close as a gnat's chuff to each other (see the eloquence of my written word) and some of us have migrated a few more (thousand) miles away but what the bastard cancer has revealed is what a tight little community of fantastic people we are.

Human spirit has shone through in large dollops of friendship. When friends have felt helpless in this stupid situation that none of us can control we have resorted to practicalities. 

And when the practicalities have been done, we have resorted to full blown over emotional love-ins.

In a world where we can control most things - and a world where if we want something bad enough and we work hard enough, we can mainly achieve it. 

Cancer knows no such rules. Cancer just takes - and it doesn't matter how successful, wealthy, determined or ballsy we are, we can't control it or the journey it takes its victims on.

So we control what we can. The small details that makes the cogs go around the battle against cancer. The little details that can make things as easy as possible for everyone involved - and it's these small things that make me realise how priceless true friends really are. Of course I already knew that - but I've been reminded a lot lately.

There's not a day goes by when my BF has not had a food delivery, a friend pop round, a gift dropped off or a child distracted. And it's these mini details that count. 

And then amidst all this cancer chaos, there's the story of the actual small things - the children. Not just my beautiful friend's small things but mine too.

Watching mine deal with such raw emotion first hand has been a journey in itself.

My 8 year old who walked up to my BF and asked her almost shyly (even though he's known her since birth) if he could give her a hug. Which was gratefully received. The worry etched in my over anxious 12yo's face as she tries to come to terms with the cruelty of life. And the power of friendships. Watching how they support my BF's small things on a day to day basis mainly by trashing my house and doing my head in but never the less it distracts us all.

And then there is the small fry belonging to my BF. The stoic 12 yo who is still able to rebel against authority and yet watches her mum's every movement. And the nearly 11yo who wears his heart on his sleeve and still finds a reason to smile every day.

This is life. It's the day to day acts of our small things that we look to, to reveal how we should live. For the moment, for the here and now - and for the smiles you can get from finding a perfectly shaped conker or baking a rainbow cake.

Today I am watching the small things with increased respect. Obviously I'm still shouting a lot otherwise everyone would get very nervous.

This is life.  The community I live in that I'm grateful for, the friendships that are strong and true.

Those true friendships are not only supporting my BF but me too; I've had deliveries of flowers, vodka infused strawberries left on my doorstep (oh yes, you read that right) and stacks of croissants delivered for when the BF's small things are also present at breakfast. 

Oh yes, it appears I have chosen my friends wisely. And then there's my lovely friends who have simply sent a text to check up on ME (and it's not even me going through the bastard cancer) that make me realise what makes the world go round.

And all through this there is the centre piece to this story - my beautiful friend. 

Strong, determined, fierce, vulnerable and of course beautiful. She managed to laugh as we shaved her head giving her a lovely mullet (we did of course do the proper thing after we'd all had a good laugh). She's been cross, she's shouted and she's cried. 

And mainly she's still in control - we've all had barked instructions from the hospital bed, the chemo ward and the bedroom. 

And mainly she's trying as hard as she can to stick two fingers up at this bastard disease. I'm not sure I would be able to greet each day with the grit and determination she has. Mind you we did have to have words about some of the post cancer diagnosis outfits of choice. 

So here's my revised survival guide for when things are crap. 

I appreciate that as a result many of you could need to review your friendships - and now is the time to do it, because should you be ill or your friend be ill, you need to make sure the right stash lands on your doorstep.

The key to surviving crap includes:
  • Vodka infused strawberries
  • Laughing 
  • Good crying*
  • Gladioli 
  • Spiced salmon and stir fry (cooked by friend's husband, as this friend doesn't cook)
  • Curries and chat on a Saturday night
  • Silly daft ridiculous texting
  • My beautiful mum
  • My family
  • My fabulous friends
  • And of course my small things

Now before you all get your hankies out at this overly 'soppy as shite' blog (again spot the eloquence of delivery), what I'm mainly trying to do is help you all live your life better. Of course NEVER under-estimate the power of wine.


And finally, if you don't have friends that know how to make vodka infused strawberries (that were also coated in chocolate) you're really missing out and I suggest you start interviewing for one now. Sadly mine is taken.

*Good crying. I have been told that if you cry a river and feel better afterwards, you can cry. If you cry a river and still feel pants after, that's bad crying and you have to distract yourself and avoid at all costs.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Summer Juggling

Shush......The silence is deafening


Summer is here.

The sun is actually shining - and parents throughout the UK welcome the summer holidays with a sigh of relief.

Okay - that last sentence is a complete lie. 

Six weeks - six whole weeks - that 30 working days to fill with children's entertainment. Or in my case eight weeks as the 12 year old kindly broke up a week before the 8 year and the 8 year is going back a week after the 12 year old.

My diary looks like someone has thrown up childcare arrangements all over - and I have that niggling feeling that I have forgotten something - or someone important. Probably one of my children.

Every week has a plan - and what can only be described as a rough schedule attached to that plan - with post it notes on top of the plan - and red circles highlighting the really important things on the post it notes.

The years in PR organising client events have nothing on the organisational precision and attention to detail that goes into summer holiday small thing planning.

This week they have been thrown at the in-laws - as I write they are on a boat somewhere on the River Wyre with Grandma and Grandpa. Well I think they are on a boat - I received a picture but all I could see was Grandma and Grandpa - and wine - and frankly a rather ropey looking boat - no sign of the small things. 

Have they already fallen in? Is the eight year old trapped under the boat (yep that was last night's nightmare). 

The small things are at the in-laws all week, which should make me jump for joy at the sense of freedom I have - the evenings spread before me, dinner with friends planned and actual proper working days await me - however the house just seems a wee bit empty and just on the edge of quiet. Even the daft dog is wandering from room to room searching for something.

I think as parents we are never quite happy - we crave the silence. When the 12 year is pecking my head with her constant questions, opinions and smart arse answers, I beg her to be quiet - and now the house is silent, I'm craving the chaos.

Of course, those who know me will know that winesday awaits me - and the bliss of not having to do the school run is so far outweighing my craving for said chaos.

I also know that this weekend I am taking the small things to their first festival - and the neurotic worry that will accompany that 'care-free' adventure will be enough to occupy most of the quiet this week.

So all in all, I am going to try and enjoy the peace and quiet...really...I am.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Love is......

A modern day love story

"The course of true love never did run smooth"

Well thanks Bill Shakespeare that is somewhat of an understatement for me.

Some may even call me a cynic...

I've been thinking about where my cynicism came from. 

And I mainly blame the couples counsellor that me and the ex saw for a while. Yep we went down that route which was actually paved with more giggles and hilarity on our part that a deep analysis of why we weren't getting on.

It started with the counsellor telling us (while sitting in a very small, airless room) that we needed to communicate more. That every night when we got in from work we should sit together on the couch with the TV off, we should face each other, we should stare into each others eyes, hold each others hand and ask each other how our day had been. (Of course we were also supposed to ignore the toddling, demanding, adventurous two year old during our communication.)

Well that piece of advice was met with what can only be described as hilarity on our part - and that night me and the ex had a right giggle together laughing at the mentalness of the counsellor. We never did our homework, we didn't sit on the couch whilst holding hands but we did have a laugh that night.

And then there was the session for which I will never forgive.

She asked me what I wanted. I rather cleverly replied (or so I thought):

"Well I want the fairytale. I want Prince Charming to trot along on his white charger and carry me away."

Obvious I thought. It's what everyone wants isn't it?  

The stuff of fairytales...Snow White, Cinda f***kin rella (Pretty Woman), Richard Gere (Officer and a Gentleman) and the ultimate Tom Cruise (Top Gun).

Apparently not according to the counsellor as she turned the atmosphere into ice with one single breath, stared at me menacingly and stated:

"That's your problem. You still believe in fairy tales."

I know - I hear your sharp intakes of breath.

I looked at her shocked - and quickly checked all corners of the room half expecting to see all the fairies of the world immediately keel over and gasp their last teeny weeny breath. I saw Prince Charming fall from his white charger in an exhaled breath of harsh reality.

Anyway fast forward a few romantic trysts where I have met more Rumpelstiltskins, big bad wolves and trolls than has ever been seen in Grimm's Fairy Tales and the cynic in me was born.

Until this weekend when I attended a wedding of one of my besties. It was her second marriage. She has been the most laid back bride I ever did see. Six months before the wedding there was still no sign of the dress, until I decided enough was enough and we went a dress shopping. As she tried on her first (and only) dress she started crying at the emotion of her pending nuptials.

This weekend she continued to cry, her make-up (bought, purchased and ruined in a river of tears) lasted all of the walk down the aisle but she glowed throughout the day. 

The bride and groom were joined on their day by their four children and the oldest two children made speeches which melted the coldest of hearts. The son told how the bride has made his dad a better man, a softer man from which he had benefited and the daughter told us how she had seen her mum smile more in the past two years than she had in the last 16 years. There were more tissues passed round the tables than confetti on the floor.

The magic for me was watching two people who have spent a lifetime waiting simply love each other. Their love for each other was palpable.

They just work. And I wish them every happiness in the world.

The glow, the emotion, the beauty of the day was frankly magical. 

And the cynic in me was stilled. Oh and I got a present which always helps still said cynic. And it was sparkly.

Fairytales do exist. I just witnessed a modern day fairytale.

*Whispers* I believe.

*Whispers Louder* David Beckham I believe, come and get me (preferably on a white charger)

P.S. I now believe the counsellor to be Snow White's evil step mother.










Friday, 21 June 2013

The Week Where Everything Broke

The longest day of the year...EVER

Today has been crap. In fact this week has been pretty pants. Everything is breaking. Everything I say. 

Of course I am not exaggerating. 

Of course I am not being ridiculous.

And Bob the Builder appears not to appear on request. Or free.

Sometimes the whole single mum running a business thang becomes a bit overwhelming. Rarely happens but this was one of those days. 

It all started with the toilet seat trauma. So the toilet seat broke, completely cracked. I hasten to add before anyone casts aspersions it was not, I repeat not my fault, but the blame can be firmly planted at the feet of the small things as they stood on it to look in the mirror while they cleaned their teeth (imagine the shouty mum outburst the morning that was discovered). 

And of course nothing in this house is simple. Turns out the stupid expensive replacement toilet seat is not only stupidly expensive but also would take THREE months to arrive. Next time I shall be B&Q all the way - none of that designer Italian nonsense for me.

Turns out (after several million phone calls) it's cheaper and way quicker to buy a new loo. New loo purchased, picked up and now in hallway waiting for a suitable Bob the Builder to come and fit.

So in between toilet trauma and toilet seat resolution with purchase of new loo was the breaking of the bed. 

Cast your mind back to last weekend. Last weekend there were three of us in my bedroom, a night of fun was planned.....

STOP now with that thought......don't be so ridiculous.

Me and two of my friends were getting ready for a night on the town sipping fizz whilst applying mascara. Three girls sit on my bed to take this photo......


Mere seconds after the picture has been taken....

BED (from very reputable company) BREAKS. Bed which is only a year old SNAPS. Bed frame just caves in two. And I wouldn't mind but the straw that broke the bed frame was my very teeny weeny 5ft 3 friend.(names have been removed to protect their identity).

I am now currently waiting for the bed man to come and examine the breakage and determine the future of said bed. For now I am mainly lying very still in the middle of my bed as part of it is propped up on books - books I haven't yet read I may add.

Then there was technological hell as my emails went down...then server issues, then server issues as servers battled to outserve each other.

And finally at 3pm this afternoon my (expensive) push button bin broke. That pushed all the wrong buttons and I had a small strop.* A small strop that to be fair had been building all week due to the amazing achy breaky house.

(*complete breakdown throughout which the dog stared at me quizzically as if to say 'man up it's a bin FFS')

Then the small things came home from school. At this point I imagine most readers are covering their eyes thinking the smalls are going to get it from shouty mum extraordinaire. But my friends, that is not how this story ends.

7yo dispatched with his dad. 11yo with me due to concerts, leaver's party outfit shopping and some much needed mother/daughter time.

I anticipated me mainly sulking like a petulant teenager and drinking wine while the 11yo maturely watched TV and counselled me on seeing the bigger picture.

Instead we found gift cards for two shops and we went a spending. We then popped up to see my mum (who's birthday it is today). We spent a delightful few hours just mooching in each others company where I thought 'Wow it's quite cool having an 11yo daughter'.

We've spent quite a bit of time in the car and then I decreed it was only right and fair that I began her education into 90s music.

It started with this classic

The jaw-dropping embarrassment of my 11yo daughter combined with the loudness of me singling along to Dub Be Good to Me (complete with rapping) finally lifted my patheticness. (new word; feel free to use in times of patheticness)

Thus I give to you my lesson in life. (you can thank me later)

When everything breaks, when Bob the Builder can't be found, when the lottery hasn't been won and when the push button bin does not push the right buttons anymore play some funky music and sing loudly preferably in the presence of a small child.

It also helps if you combine the loud music and bad singing by winding the windows down and doing some crazy mum car dancing whilst driving along.

It's times like these when it's worth being a parent. 

When being a parent and embarrassing your small child makes everything better.

Here endeth this week's lesson. 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Dear Daughter

The Wonder Years

Dear daughter,

At this moment in time I am shouting upstairs to you yelling at you to go to sleep. You are shouting back telling me how many hours and minutes you have left as a 10 year old.

Some (everyone) may (will) describe me as a shouty mum:

"GET DRESSED, HURRY UP, CLEAN YOUR TEETH, LISTEN, I'M NOT TELLING YOU AGAIN, IF YOU DON'T GET A MOVE ON, I WILL MAKE YOU GO OUT LIKE THAT......"

The list is endless. Even now the night before your much anticipated 11th birthday I am shouting at you to go to sleep or you won't get your birthday breakfast. 

How time's change? 

11 years ago I was to be found wandering around this living room with a somewhat mahoosive bump thinking that the twinges I was feeling perhaps meant you were going to make an appearance three weeks early. 

As I was wandering round wondering whether labour was going to hurt (how naive),  the rest of my family were sitting in the kitchen eating mum's macaroni cheese to celebrate the occasion and having a sweepstake as to how long I was going to be in labour. (three-ish hours)

At midnight, we hightailed it to hospital and at 3.37am you were born. I remember spending what was left of the night simply staring at you, just watching you breathe, unable to believe that I was now a mum. That feeling has never left me. 

From that moment on my life changed.

Even now when I probably spend 90% of my time shouting, yelling and occasionally swearing, I thank my lucky stars that you are mine. Every night without fail, the last thing I do before I clamber under the duvet is to kiss you good night and watch you sleeping, watch you breathe, just like I did 11 years ago. 

Back then my main worry was that you kept breathing, and now my worries range from making sure that you keep breathing (yes still) to your schooling, your friendships, whether you can walk to school on your own, whether you eat enough veg, whether you will ever wear a dress, if you will be happy at high school ...worrying is a constant, a niggling, gnawing, tapping in any mum's mind.


I do miss you as a baby, your gurgling smile, your inability to put your feet on sand and even those hideously humiliating moments including carrying you out of a supermarket under my arm with your legs kicking and screaming (you didn't visit a supermarket for a long time after that). I don't miss the fact that you didn't actually sleep a full night until you were 17 months old.

But I mainly love watching you, watching you grow into a beautiful small thing sometimes at war with your own developing personality but always kind, always loving and giving.

I am mainly hugely proud to be your mum and tomorrow I shan't be shouting at you on your birthday, I shall be spending the day feeling blessed and trying not to shout at you on your birthday. And then when I take you and your friends out for tea, I shall mainly be drinking wine to dull the noise of six excited 11 year olds. 

This time 11 years ago I started on a journey where I learn something new every day, where I spin more plates than I ever thought was possible, and where I have a reason to smile every day. 

Tonight when I kiss your sleeping face goodnight and I am the first person to whisper Happy Birthday in your ear, I shall be sending a silent prayer of thanks that I am so blessed,

Love you my beautiful girl,

Your mum.