Monday, 11 July 2016

What if I fall?

Dear daughter,

It appears you are taking baby steps...away from me.

It appears I am rapidly becoming redundant.

(Well apart from my access to that money tree and taxi services.)

It appears that with every given day you change right before my eyes, my little girl is growing up. 

My little girl is growing up at a rate of knots. Blink and there's a new sign of the young woman developing before me.

Every day you seem to be taking a step away from me. Steps to a new future, a future of new friends, new experiences and ones where I won't be at your side to watch over you - ones where I will be on the sidelines.

You shall be forever shrouded in the protection of this parental blanket - but the blanket these days is thinner and less visible. You don't hang onto my shirt tails anymore, they are more likely to provide a launch pad taking you in a new direction.

Once the slightly anxious child not entirely comfortable with herself, you are now this beautiful creature inside and out, opinionated, caring, passionate about your beliefs and happy to disagree with mine.

Every day I have encouraged you to grow. Just as I encouraged you to take your first steps. But every day now it makes me heart beat faster and more furiously knowing that I am encouraging you to step away from me and step into your independence and your future. A future forged without me as the centrifugal force.

A future dictated by your own hopes, needs, desires and ambitions.

And all of a sudden, I now realise that now my job as a parent becomes even more difficult. As I can no longer control,* I can only guide. And be here whenever you need me. And you may not need me.

Tonight you needed me to be home when you got back from your first baby sitting job - but tomorrow you won't. Tomorrow you will be happy in the knowledge it's another thing you can do alone.**

As a parent I know the best thing I can do is not cover you in bubble wrap but give you the courage to experience this thing called life.

And it scares me more than it scared me watching you breathe throughout your first night on this earth.

I genuinely thought parenting got easier. I thought I would never mirror the helplessness I felt waking in the night and watching you sleep terrified that cot death would come and claim you. (not that that happened a lot as you never blinkin slept).

But now as I begin the journey to set you free in this big bad wide world the fear is even bigger. 

Because I can no longer watch your every breath, I have to wait in the sidelines ready to help if you need me but knowing in reality you will need me less and less.

But if and when you do, I will always be here*** (possibly a bit drunk).

Love your mum

*For the purposes of clarity (and in case said daughter is actually reading this) I am still in control, no you can't do whatever you want and I am still in absolute charge - and will be forever.

** which is probably quite a good job as I will be out drinking gin

*** when I say here, I mainly mean somewhere in the world on a beach with wifi


Monday, 28 March 2016

Airport Musings

The Traveller


I spend quite a lot of time at airports of late. The fact that my work colleagues have started referring to me as Judith Chalmers has not escaped me.

I think I've almost mastered the art of the travelling alone; in fact I think I've almost mastered the art of looking like I know what I'm doing; sauntering casually wandering through the airport with the air of someone who is frankly a traveling hipster (complete with sushi and coffee).

I had a kindle (note the past tense - I also left said kindle in security - apologies if that caused any unnecessary alarms) so now I arm myself with the traditional paperback at the flight gate and do one of my favourite things. 

People watch.

Airports have to be the ultimate place to bring together all manner of people - all crammed together on one tiny space for a period of time with No Escape.

There's The Suit. The ultimate business traveler. Still wearing his suit, he wanders up and down the airport lounge talking with an air of importance on his mobile wishing he had enough business expenses to travel first class.

Then there's always The fraught. The ubiquitous traveling family. Fraught with bickering children, errant husbands and the possibility that the technology may run out before the actual plane journey starts combining to make the start of most holidays for the average family stressful. Throw in a screaming 2 year old and a lost blankie and there's grounds for a full on melt down - and that's just mum. 

Enter The weekenders. The group of boys - when I say boys - I mainly mean older men. Seasoned travellers on the return home from a weekend away from responsibility. Seasoned travellers who of course don't try and kill each other on a Ryan Air flight but who may have spend four days reliving their youth. Seasoned travellers who now look like former shadows of themselves after a few days on a boys weekend.

The Smug smiles serenely at the chaos around them and thanks their lucky stars they are The Smug. The Smug is a modern day traveller cruising from destination to destination. They embrace the epitome of airplane etiquette. Headphones at the ready, iPhone fully charged, music ready to play and a travelling Mac a constant companion. Ready and all tech'd up to cope with the curiosities of cruising through an airport. Until of course the Internet connection fails and then The Smug resembles a poor broken lost puppy.

And then my pet airport hate. The PDA couple. The snuggling couple - they can be any age; young or old; but grouped together by their need to constantly show each other how much they love being together in an airport watched by thousands of people. Breezing through the airport with a 'love is' cloud wavering above their heads as they consistently stop to share a kiss, a snuggle and maybe take a selfie to show the world (beyond the airport) how much in love they are, these people need a room of their own at airports.

And finally there's me. The pretender. Head burrowed in a book, constantly checking travel documents, trying to appear nonchalant, wondering if my passport has managed to become out of date since the last time I checked, wondering if my lost kindle is going to mean we all have to evacuate the airport. I'm always the one in the line for the full body search (when will I learn to take my bracelet off) and I always sit a bit too close to the flight departure boards so I can mainly stare at it and pray the flight leaves on time otherwise I'm gonna be late getting the kids (again).

I thought I had it all nailed. I thought I knew all the groups in the airport lounge. I knew what to expect. I knew all the different idiosyncrasies of the people that populate the airport lounge.

And then I got on the plane. And sat next to The Snircher.

The Snircher sniffed, snirched and snotted throughout the entire journey. 

Rubbing his sleeve across his nose that only a 15 year old on a school trip seems to think it's acceptable to do, he then ordered olives (obviously from south manchester) and played on his phone in airplane mode. 

And snirched with such wild abandon that he nearly ended up being forced through the airplane window (by me). And then he got up - I thought he might have been going to get a tissue - but no, he just wanted to snirch at his mate in the next row - and I noticed he had tracksuit bottoms falling off his non existent butt showing his feckin underpants which I did not want to see.

I then learnt a new lesson.* Do not ever give up your seat so a mother and daughter can sit together. The Snircher could be waiting for you.

Thankfully I have yet to see a group of girls traveling in their curlers and pjs. But I mainly think that's cos I'm not on a flight to Majorca.

*I actually learnt two lessons that day. Do not try and take a picture to showcase the riduculousenss of such attire as you may be caught by the snircher and you may look like a wrong 'un and it may be interpreted badly.


Saturday, 20 February 2016

Adventures across the pond...

School trips have changed....

One week and one day ago, I waved goodbye to the 13 year old at Manchester Airport as we watched a group of school kids go off on a school trip.

Not to Wigan Pier, not to Conwy Castle, not to the Lake District but to travel thousands of miles across the pond for a week's skiing in New Hampshire and two days in NYC.

The anxious one was most anxious about her travelling so far away.....and so was the 13 year old. It was made all the more tearful by the 4am drop off at the airport with not even a cup of coffee to calm the nerves. The next ten hours were mainly spent obsessing watching flight tracker as her plane managed to avoid the terrible potential disasters I had imagined and landed safely in Boston.

The joy of social media alleviated the school trip parent stress syndrome (STPSS) as the lovely teachers updated regularly on a (private) twitter account.

Five days of skiing then ensued with various pictures of the girls looking more and more tired. The pictures of the parents would have showed far more wrinkles, more stress and more tiredness than displayed during the first years of parenting. 

Who knew that an exciting adventure for the 13 year old would manifest in such parental panic for me. I naively thought that as my small things grew up, I would worry less. As I became more confident that they would breathe through the night, I would start to chill out on their development, growth and survival. But it turns out that when you put a 13 year old on a plane from Manchester to Boston that invisible umbilical cord that continues to bind us together is stretched a little bit farther than I would like.

Who knew that parents would panic like this? When I buggered off on my school ski trip I never gave my parents a passing thought (sorry mum, oops dad). When we were stranded in Dover for 18 hours waiting for the ferry (no flights in them there days) I didn't think whether my mum and dad would be wondering where I was, I was simply staring at the White Cliffs of Dover.*

When we were skiing in France, I didn't consider that mum and dad may be spending every day wondering whether I was safe, happy and well - and all without wifi and mobile phones to allow me to check in.
 'This is what I'm having for breakfast' text

I've heard from the 13 year old (almost) daily. To be fair I have mainly heard what she has had for breakfast, a question as to whether she should change her thermals on the third day (erm yes) and other random text that mainly didn't include her skiing adventures. But she was in contact - and so I knew she was alive (minimising the need for the healing powers of wine to cope with STPSS)*.

And then tomorrow the traveller returns home. I will squeeze her so tight when I finally see her face in the airport tomorrow (following a traumatic 12 hours ahead tracking flights across a rather large expanse of water) and hug her close and thank the heavens she is back where she belongs...and then I reckon I will probably start shouting within about 30 minutes.

And normality will resume. I. cannot. wait.



*that's a lie, we may have been chatting to boys from Dover
* again that's a lie, there's always a need for wine




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 journey.......to 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. 

*minutes

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.