Old: The creep of plenty…

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We were watching a DVD the other night, of Richard Pryor, back in the 70s. Apart from some general “comedy doesn’t always time travel well” moments, there was something even more noticeable.

Everyone was thin.

He was very thin. And the audience were too.

And it got me to thinking, and remembering.

Back when I was wee, we would occasionally be looked after by my dad’s best friend whilst my parents went out for the night. More particularly, we would go to stay in his bachelors pad. He was divorced, with kids of his own, and lived in a flat high up in the sky – very exciting when you’re 6!

But even more exciting than the dizzying heights was the contents of his fridge. Cans – cans! of coke, and mars bars.

And we were allowed to drink and eat them… I even recall we were allowed them for breakfast, but that may be memory taking liberties with me!

What made this all the more remarkable was that we never had such things at home. I don’t remember, but I’m sure I’ve heard my mum saying how we would have a kitkat on a Sunday, and those would be the only chocolate biscuits in the house. The “pop man” would come and delivery fizzy pop – limeade or orangeade – in the small, returnable bottles every so often, but I don’t remember having brand names (well, maybe Irn Bru…) that often.

I’m not sure whether it just wasn’t the done thing, or it was a financial thing, but there just weren’t so many treats in the house. Maybe it’s not such a surprise that people in the 70s and the 80s seem slim in comparison to these days…

In 1984, we moved down from Glasgow to England, and generally there was a bit more money around, but also times had changed… There was no McDonald’s where we’d lived before; there was now. And just a few years on I have very clear memories of a glass cookie jar with a red lid (oh yes, because I still have it in my kitchen!) filled with mini cadbury’s bars… Quite a change. And now? There’s a whole treats cupboard in my kitchen…

So, it’s no causation; but I wonder…

New: Snowballs and Nights In

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I’ve had a lovely weekend. A very lovely weekend.

I have a new boyfriend. Let’s call him Box (a long story, but it works for me). It’s early days, but the relationship is serious, serious enough that Moo is a part of it. Not as far as she is concerned – she’s none the wiser. But she knows Box (and seems to really like him), and she’s a constant consideration in the development of our relationship.

And this weekend it was Box’s birthday.

We spent the day together, Box, Moo and me. His choice. And that did more to endear him to me than anything else that he could have done. When given the choice of what he could do, he chose a treat with Moo as its focus, but that we could all enjoy.

But anyway, the best laid plans and all that meant that of course snow fell, and our day out was no longer possible. But panic ye not! Box risked the drive over in his poorly designed rear wheel drive car (can’t drive it for toffee in the snow!), and after a lunch of spag bol and garlic bread, we ventured out in the snow…

A quick traipse through the wood behind the house, and we were at the relatively untouched snow of the tiny play park that lies beyond. Box pulled Moo on the sledge up to the swings, where he sourced snowballs for her to through at me whilst she swung!

A proper snowball fight was therefore called for, and Moo tugged at my heart strings when she stood in front of me when Box was about to launch an attack, shouting “I’ll protect you mummy!! Run!!”.

As ever, the fun was quickly brought to a close when Moo first fell off the swing, then realised how cold she was… But a carry from Box through the woods, and being pulled on the sledge by me through the streets, and by the time she was wrapped in a blanket back home all was right with the world again. Birthday candles warmed us all up, although not as much as the tea and cake which followed!

A last game of “Crazy Chefs” and it was time to take Moo to her dad’s, so that Box and I could go out to celebrate his birthday. But the trip to the restaurant which we’d decided would be our new birthday tradition was postponed – the snow was too much of a risk for a meal in the middle of nowhere. So leftover lunch was hastily restyled into a pasta bake, birthday cake repurposed as dessert, and political stand up comedy (George Carlin) enjoyed on DVD, during which I struggled to avoid falling asleep (again) cuddled up on the sofa. It would appear that a comfortable, warm body next to me with whom I am completely relaxed is all it takes to put this insomniac to sleep…

It’s been a long time since something so normal was so much fun. There are challenges in building new lives out of damaged families, and Moo remains my top priority. But I’m quietly hopeful. And happy, in a way that I had somehow forgotten I could be.

Who do you think you are…?

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A couple of things recently have reminded me how little I know, or remember, about my parents’ and my grandparents’ lives.

I also have really limited memories of my own life!

Added to my lack of blogging mojo, or direction, recently, I thought that maybe this was something I could try. This space could be my space for recording these memories, recalled and as they happen, so that Moo, my daughter, can look back in years to come and see what she makes of it. Of me, and of our family.

These are not going to be researched posts, with loads of detail. But memories, acorns of a story left to be told, as and when I remember them, so they do not wither for lack of care.

So here goes nothing!

Holidays are coming…

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Christmas seems to be creeping up on me.

It’s Moo’s birthday not long before, and now that’s over, it feels like it’s somehow immediately Christmas. Whereas, actually, there’s well over a week to go… *gulp*.

I am now on a mission.

We went to see Santa Claus at Chill Factore.  And Meg asked for a racing car.

I’m pretty sure she heard Heather‘s daughter asking for one. I have no idea where she would have come up with the idea from otherwise…

We were waiting to go into Santa’s Grotto. The kids were all chattering about what they wanted. Moo was toying with the idea of a rocket ship. Except, as I reminded her, she had one of those last year.

She’s a creature of habit my girl.

I made the fatal mistake of suggesting that she ask for something else.

The queue to see Santa wasn’t short. She had plenty of time to mull this over. To take inspiration from the children around her.

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The anticipation was palpable. We stepped through into a winter wonderland of real snow, and (thankfully) not quite so real Christmassy creatures, having been¬†enthusiastically informed, by the Scottish elf that outlined the experience to us, of the secret signal to Santa’s elves (3 knocks on the door). As ever, despite being keen to see Santa, Moo did not want to go near the man in red, but did ask for her racing car.

The racing car that Santa is having trouble sourcing…

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The Santa experience at Chill Factore was lovely. Moo had a great time playing in the toddlers section just outside Santa’s grotto – whizzing down the little slope in the rubber rings. Next time, we’ll definitely try the sledging – Moo was just a bit too nervous (and technically a couple of weeks too young) to throw herself into that, but she loved the mini sledging and I think would love to have a go soon!

We really enjoyed our visit to Chill Factore. I’d recommend it as a trip to get into the Christmas spirit – I heard today that there’s statistically more chance of a white Good Friday than Christmas Day, so it might be your only chance to see snow!! A great day out for the littl’uns and the big ones – plenty of activities all round.

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Thanks to Chill Factore for hosting us and letting us see Santa (and Peppa Pig!). If you’re near Manchester, Chill Factore is a great way to kickstart the Christmas holiday – or to cling on to it after the big day itself!

Walk a mile in another (wo)man’s shoes…

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It’s amazingly easy to say the wrong thing. Projecting your issues with your own life on to others, not empathising as to how particular aspects of their life may be different to yours, and may therefore affect them differently. I am as guilty, if not more guilty, of this as the average person.

A recent example was a parent complaining about language used by a group of young adults on a train where there were children present.

I completely empathise with their complaint. I don’t want Moo hearing, and picking up, bad language. Not yet.

But I also remember being a young adult, in a group of friends. Would I have noticed the kids sitting around me on the train? Would I have thought to modify my language? Would I have realised how sponge-like children were before I had kids? I doubt it.

We just seem prone to say things without really thinking of them.

And my current favourite is “At least you only have the one”.

Having multiple kids is tough. 2 kids. 3 kids, more.

Having one child is tough too.

Yes, some people’s lives are more difficult than others. But rarely are we in a position to judge the whole picture.

Having one child might look easy.

Having one child means being that child’s only companion, only playmate, only comforter, for the majority of the time (save for nursery and playdates) particularly when you are a single parent to that one child. And that means no respite, no rest, no downtime.

Having one child might mean accepting that you haven’t provided that child with a family when you are gone, and setting them out in the world on their own – no ready-made set of peers for the future. No siblings, nieces, nephews.

Having one child might not be what that person wanted.

It might be because of infertility. It might be because of financial constraints. It might be because of family breakdown.

It might be hard to that person that they only have the one. It may even be gut-wrenchingly hard.

Having one child is also awesome.

You can give undivided attention.

You can be the playmate, the comforter, the safe place.

The house is occasionally quiet, and you don’t have to barter or balance, or make sure your time is divided. There’s no tag teaming for night time wakings, or ganging up on the parents.

You can provide for them for the future, with fewer financial worries.

It might be exactly what that person wants, their plan for their perfect family.

Whichever way it is, it is. And you make the most of it.

But it’s not harder, or easier. It just is.

I miss men…

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No, it’s not what you think.

There’s a really strange phenomena when you are single, but in your 30s and with a child.

Most of your friends are married with kids. Or maybe not technically filling the definition of married with kids, but in that kind of zone.

Socialising consists of playdates, or dinner. It’s not so much the propping up the bar stage of life.

Which is fine. But I’ve found, to my surprise, that the singleton isn’t that welcome in that environment for some reason.

My invites to nights out have reduced. Friends that I would go for dinner with regularly when I was part of a couple are strangely quiet.

And it’s not that they are ignoring me (well, not most), or that I’m not socialising with them at all.

It’s just I’m only socialising with some of them. The girls.

“Oh, you’re free Friday night? Fab. Let’s have a girls night out!! Let’s get the girls around for dinner! Let’s…”. You get the picture.

The only problem is that I like the company of men. I like to have a mix in my social life. Nights out with the girls are fab, but just because I’m single doesn’t mean I can’t still retain platonic friendships! And some of those girls are only really my friends because I was friends with their men first. So when and why did those friendships fade into the background? When did it split into boys and girls again?

Do the girls think I will try to steal their husbands? Do the boys think I won’t be able to control myself?

I went out last night with a (male) old family friend who I haven’t seen in years. We had some grub, and saw some comedy (more of that later), and I had a really good time. It was really nice to have a chinwag with a bloke in a social setting for once, and in particular to engage in the kind of gentle piss-taking that in my experience only really happens in male company. It wasn’t a date, it was two friends going out. Why can’t that happen more?

[Not that I would turn down dates if they were on offer – but that’s a whole other post…]

The Gallery: Delicate

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It’s a delicate topic, divorce.

But unfortunately, for some of us, it’s reality.

And today, I filed my divorce petition. After far too long procrastinating.

It marks something significant for me. We’ve been separated for almost 2 years. We live separate lives. We have worked out a way, slowly, of parenting together, apart. And it works for us, as well as anything that is, by anyone’s standards, less than ideal can work.

But filing for divorce is officially saying that’s that. I’m not going to be married any more. That whole period of my life? It’s in the past.

So a little ghost seemed the most fitting way to commemorate this moment. The divorce isn’t through yet, but the cogs have been set in motion.

And I need to leave the past behind.

This is a post for The Gallery, over at Sticky Fingers.

My career. And motherhood.

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Well, if you’re going to start somewhere, may as well make it a big’un.

Today, one of my good friends left my firm. We have worked together ever since qualifying, over 10 years ago. It’s strange to think that I will no longer work with her – she’s been a constant in my professional career.

She’s moved to another job where she can leave work on time, not work on her non-working days, and therefore get to see her kids more.

I completely support her decision to do that.

But I’m not doing it.

Instead, I’m pouring my heart and soul into my career.

Does that make me a bad mother? Hell, I’m not even going to go there.

It’s just me. I love Moo. She’s the centre of my world. But I need my job – my career – too. I need the purpose it gives me. I need the stimulation it gives me. Now, more than ever.

And I’ll be honest, I like the lifestyle it gives me access to, the independence it provides, although that’s not the main reason I do it – I could earn a living wage working less.

I’m a single mum, and I’m in a really privileged position because of my career. And I genuinely do not feel that Moo suffers as a result of it.

She has the stimulation of her nursery, where (although it costs me an arm and a leg and drives me mad regularly) she is settled and happy. She sees her dad daily, my parents and our friends on a weekly basis, and her cousins and grandparents regularly. She has a routine that works for us all, even if she doesn’t really like waking up on those mornings when she goes to nursery.

And she has a fulfilled and happy mum.

Yes, work is stressful. It’s hard. It’s supposed to be. It’s another place for me to grow, to develop, to become the well rounded person I want Moo to become. And I’ll moan about it until the cows come home if given the change.

But it’s also put the spring back into my step in difficult circumstances.

I may always be the we’an to my family (and I wouldn’t have it any other way). But at work, I’m respected as an authoritative voice. My opinion is important, my decisions change things. I influence transactions and mentor colleagues. I make a difference to other lives, and that makes a difference to mine.

So my career and motherhood? I think they go together rather well.