Apart from that, things will be a bit silent for a while as I say goodbye to my family home.
Did I tell you we’re moving? Yeah, not content on changing careers and sorting out my mum’s estate, we’ve decide to haul arse and vacate the big smoke. We’re moving to be near Mr Milk’s family and the ocean.
So it’s househunting time. Why is the prospect of househunting so exciting and the actuality a bloody pain in the arse? You start off with the dream of that perfect house with the perfect aga and the perfect magnolia tree only to discover you’re having to wade through crap again to find a semi-polished stone. And why are you always 50k short of what you want? Always.
When asking about the backround to one particular property recently the young (holy christ these agents are young these days, they look like they’ve dressed up in daddy’s suit) estate agent told me the vendors were getting divorced and were really keen to sell. My stomach dropped.
Me and Mr Milk have been here before. We lived in Manchester for 11 years and bought property there. Once we were shown around a fairly typical, fairly faceless 1930s semi on a corner plot. (more concrete out front than the average terraced). It was being sold on due to a very acrimonious divorce by partners who were still being forced to inhabit the same house (and god forbid, probably the same bed).
We were met at the door by the estate agent (stereotypical) and the vendor (clearly having had a very bad time of it lately). The vendor proceeded to walk us around the property (which was truly awful) picking out the worst of its features to describe in length. A bit like the test they give salespeople at interview – how to sell a pencil - except he sucked on the rotten egg of sales patter. The mobile bar (think hostess trolley for booze), the beige bathroom suite, the multi-speed 1980s ceiling fan (all speeds were carefully demonstrated). So this whole viewing thing took time, a lot of time, and it was really really painful.
At the end Mr Milk and myself were cornered in the sitting room by both the vendor (ashen grey and sweating) and the estate agent (smug, clearly having made promises involving cats and bags) who proceeded to ask us then and there (as a choking fog of desparation billowed around us) whether we were going to put in an offer.
That experience has stayed with us. Haunted us in fact. So when I found out we were going to view another “divorce house” I knew I couldn’t go through with it.
So I asked the agent to update our criteria:- ”No recent divorcees, or otherwise acriminuous couples trapped in in a house of misery and shit, and absolutely no motorised fan enthusiasts.”
I’m probably discounting a lot of properties this way, but I find it’s always better to be up front about these things.
Clearly aforementioned vendor’s twin. Scary.
It all started with an old tin. An M & S biscuit tin in the shape of a lorry to be exact, left in my porch overnight. I was quite pleased with this present actually, these tins can come in handy for tidying away bundles of toy cars that keep jabbing you in the feet. They consequently also act as a great preventative to a swear box (or tin).
But then it was an old Tomy walker casually lent against our inside wall. My youngest is 3, and I’m not yet in need of a makeshift zimmer (they didn’t see me careering down the road the other night after a bit of a boozy do did they?)
Anyway, yesterday it took an eerie turn. My husband came in with a worried look on his face, holding a partly decomposed, very dirty, and seriously unloveable teddy. Circa 1962. “This is getting a bit weird now” he said.
So I asked around, and noone knows anything. Even my older neighbours that can’t see/hear/smell much anymore and so could’ve been forgiven for mistakes on quality (especially if they’re a bit partial to a squeeze or two of Febreeze rather than a bath).
So what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever found in your porch?( (elaborations on the word “porch” totally welcome).
Today is my mother’s birthday. She would have been 72.
I remember vividly her birthday last year. She, me and all the Milks, my sister, her husband and their girls, and a special day out at London Zoo. I’d just had my fringe cut and, as always, was nervous what my mum would think. At 33, her opinion was still the most important to me. A daughter dancing for her mother’s attention.
We had taken a picnic. A trademark affair. Couscous and roasted vegetable salad, an assortment of sandwiches, delicious rye bread from the deli. We sat on a rounded bench encircling a dwarf maple, our feast of delights spread out around us, carefully placed among the splattering of pigeon droppings. Later, we sang happy birthday as my mother pretended to hide under the hood of her jacket, much to the delight of the children, as we tucked into the most delicious coffee cake I’ve ever eaten. (made by my clever sis). And I remember thinking fleetingly – “Could this be the last time we all celebrate together like this?”.
I don’t know why this thought came into my head that day. Perhaps holding something perfect in your hands makes you fear the loss of it.
2 months later as we all sat together on my mother’s old red velvet sofa and posed for a photograph the same thought came into my head. “What if this is the last picture we have all together like this?”
2 months later came the diagnosis, and 4 months later my mother passed away.
I don’t know why, and I don’t know how, but I knew what was to come. Instinct wrought from intimacy.
I miss you mummy, every day.
Brahm’s lullaby – played at her funeral.
Today marks the 4th anniversary of my father’s death. It is also 5 months exactly since I lost my mum. Two journeys, both with many more miles to tred.
This week I locked myself out of the house. Returning from a hard day’s work – forlorn, within an inch of my patience. Two tired children yelping and jumping at my knees like impatient, rivalrous puppies vying for attention. A childminder desparate to reclaim her family home, a husband tied up in another meeting, neighbours immersed in their own bedtime squabbles. My desparate calls unanswered – two, three, four times.
And as I stood on my own doorstep I have never felt so alone.
When you lose your parents, you cease to be someone’s child. An obvious point, but in that subtle twist of perception is something more significant. The moment you are orphaned you lose the people whose primary role is to protect you. Unconditional, instinctive, tribal. This is no comment on my loyal husband who I love dearly, or my sister who is truly exceptional. Yet as peers, the needs of our own families must come first. The selfless, unquestioning devotion is focussed on the children whose lives we have been entrusted to protect, nurture, bring to fruition.
And the truth is, my parent’s job was done.
Yet the vulnerable needy child in you is always there. The infant yearning to be wrapped in its mother’s arms, safe from the loom of the bogeyman. We still crave to hear those words “Don’t worry darling, I’ll sort it all out for you”, to hide under the duvet and to let someone else carry the burden.
But the truth is, the buck now stops with you. There won’t always be someone else to come to the rescue. And that can be a lonely thought.
Big Milk “Will you stop being sad mummy when her house is gone?”.
Me ” I’ll always be a bit sad darling. It’s a natural part of life to miss someone you love.”
Big Milk “But I don’t miss Grandma. I just close my eyes and my body makes pictures of her. I get a different picture every day”.
Me “And a Grandma is very special, and you must try to hold on to all those pictures. But a mummy, there’s something even more special about a mum. And grandma was my mum, and I was her little girl. “
Big Milk “And you’re my mum, and you’re very special to me”.
Me (holding down tears) “Yes, and you make me very happy”.
Big Milk “And you know that I’m always here for you, don’t you mummy?”.
And now i’m sobbing into my pasta trying to retain some semblance of being the parent as I tell him just how proud I am of him.
I’ve always thought he got this from his dad. A sweet over-sentimentality. I’m the strong one, the organised one, the one that tells him to get a move on and to wipe the snot from his nose. But a few days ago he put me straight.
“Me and you are the same mummy…….delicate“.
Yes I am my sweet sweet boy. But I’m all the stronger for having you.
As you know, I love to write. It’s my hobby, my passion, my solace. Problem is, I’m rubbish at reading. I haven’t read more than a handful of books since I left university over 10 years ago. I did an English Literature degree and all that forced reading, analysing, summarising – it just took all the enjoyment out of it. So since then reading has felt like a bit of a chore. Shame really.
Embarrasingly, it’s the same with reading other people’s blogs. If you haven’t grabbed me in the first few sentences you’ve lost me. Even when I’m pretty interested in the subject matter, I’m always prone to a bit of skimming. My attention span is rubbish. In fact I can think of only a handful of posts I’ve actually read word for word. Taken in the detail of the language, the complexity of the argument.
The thought of someone skimming MY posts upsets me. Carefully crafted, meticulous in word and description – it’d be like someone smothering my home-cooked meal in ketchup. (Something Mr Milk IS prone to doing). But I’m not stupid; of course people skim my posts, many won’t even be arsed to open them. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, especially over the past few months. “I didn’t sign up for this depressing shit!” (an actual reason given by a work colleague for unfollowing me within 2 days of joining). And it’s painfully obvious when someone hasn’t read your posts properly. They’ve guessed the subject matter from the title, and totally missed the mark with their comment, sometimes with cringeworthy results. “Well done on the weight loss!” when the post was actually about the agony of putting it all back on 2 months later.
And I know I’ve done this a few times myself on other people’s blogs. I think it’s quite unforgiveable, and I hate it, and I do it all the time.
This kind of total hypocrisy follows me round quite a bit. I frequently have greater expectations for other people than I ever manage to meet myself. Like being appalled at the childminder when you pick your kids up and they’re glued to the television AGAIN, like your own house isn’t a bona fide movie theatre. Or you go tutting at your husband for failing to wash the dishes before stacking them in the dishwasher, and then he points out that he was in fact out for dinner the night before and this was all your handiwork. Or wincing in disbelief at seeing another mother fly off the handle at her children with a bit too much menace, before your own raging banshee is unleashed later when you spy a chocolate fingermark on your cream blinds.
So come on, what expectations do you have of other people that you frequently and miserably fail to reach yourself?
There has been some anger. Intermittently. Less than I expected. And yet, as I described in The natural order of things, there is nothing so grossly unnatural or twisted about losing my mum now. Losing her is devastating of course, unfair, paralysing, and the rollercoaster hurtles through panic, fear, inconsolation, desparation, anxiety and more. I shouldn’t be an orphan at 34. And yet, despite how quickly and harshly the progression of the last few months, despite 71 being no age to go, despite 2 months not being in any way long enough to say goodbye, despite all this, there is an awful lot I am grateful for.
I am grateful that I had a mum so utterly dedicated to her children. A mum with a natural instinct to love and protect.
I am grateful that we had 34 years – rich, memory-filled years full of poignant, sometime magical moments.
I am grateful that my mum was here to welcome both my boys into this world. I am grateful for the tears she shed, and the cuddles she gave and received.
I am grateful that my mum saw me married. Watched as my family was built on love and trust, and that she was reassured at the end, that I was in good hands.
I am grateful for the precious few months we had before she went. The time to talk, to tell eachother all the things we needed to, to express our love in moments of enforced clarity.
I am grateful that I was there at the end. That I got to hold her hand as she passed away. That the moment was peaceful, without pain or fear, that she was surrounded by two proud, loving daughters, the air filled with the music that she loved.
I am grateful for that music. That when I listen to it I can feel connected to her in a way that is indescribably perfect,incomparable to any physical thing, spiritual even. A truly wondrous gift.
I am grateful for her strength, pride and devotion; for the lessons she taught me, and the person I was able to become.
I am grateful for all these gifts, and more.
Many people don’t have half of what I have. Some much less. What a lucky girl I am.
“A period of 6 months after Britain’s declaration of war on Germany in 1939 where nothing much happened. Also referred to as “The Twighlight War” by Churchill, and “The Sitting War” by the Germans.” (Wikipedia)
Yesterday I was trying to explain to Mr Milk how I feel at the moment. “I just feel very weird. A muted sense of panic, an uneasiness that won’t go away”. ” Well it’s just like the phoney war isn’t it?” he replied. “Someone has declared war on you, but nothing seems to be happening.”
And he was spot on. I am stumbling around in full body armour, pumped up and ready to fight, but I find myself standing alone on the battlefield with no sign of the enemy approaching. All around me is spookily quiet and I’m struggling to make sense of it.
I know that the enemy will come, and when it does the charge might be swift, unrelenting, brutal, but for now I can see, smell, taste nothing out of the ordinary. The blossom is beginning to form on the trees in the promise of summer and my darling mother looks as well and as beautiful as ever.
This silent and invisible enemy that stalks me is scaring the shit out of me; I just wish he’d turn to face me, so I can look him in the eye and know what I’m dealing with.
Mr Milk was vegetarian for 20 years until his curiosity got the better of him. We were visiting Roka, a rather gorgeous sushi restaurant in Charlotte St, London; his work were paying (well they’d pretty much owned his life for several months) so we were eating. In hindsight I think he had decided he was straying before he’d even booked the restaurant.
As it turns out, meat pretty much had him at hello. Grabbed him by the short and curlies with a pincer grip and clamped her striatus muscles around his follicles.
I suppose, as his palette was becoming more and more refined (no doubt by the exponential improvements made in the culinary department) it seemed only sensible to widen the range of foods he would eat, savour, explore. After all, you only live once. So he embarqued on his flesh-eating journey. It was to be limited only to the finest cuts of organic, hand-reared meat, blessed by prepubescent nuns and stroked in a daily ritual by eunich sheep, yada yada.
Within 2 months he was eating 3 macdonalds a week.
I actually joined him as a vegetarian for a few years. It wasn’t some kind of moral quest for me, it was just that it was around the time of the mad cow scare and I didn’t really fancy staggering out my last breath with a moo and a swish of the tail. So the idea was to cut out meat entirely, and then to slowly drip feed back only the best quality cuts…hold on, this sounds familiar….
Anyway, I knocked my own vegetarianism on the head when I started weaning the first born. Well it’s difficult to maintain some kind of rigid quality control when you’re having to sample pureed lamb at every meal.
You see, there is no doubt in my mind that, biologically speaking, we’re meant to eat meat – we’re built for it. Those big monster teeth at the back are clearly for chewing through sinew and gristle, not sauteed parsnip or squishy butter beans. We don’t look at a tiger hunting down it’s prey with cunning and detachment – playful, ruthless, singleminded – and say “that tiger is totally bloody out of order”. It’s natural.
So i’m afraid if the argument is purely that eating meat is immoral I don’t buy it, especially if you’re a “pescatarian” that caveats yourself by saying that fish are different because they’ve got tiny little fish brains. Now if we start talking about the way we farm/kill/process meat and what we’re doing to the planet, well, that’s where any kind of argument I can feebly muster slips on a banana peel and lands firmly on its arse. What argument could I possibly have?
The way we farm is disgusting, the way we treat animals is disgusting. I’d rather run on the ruddy treadmill again in my knickers than see a slaughter first hand. Yet i choose to do nothing about it. I’m lazy, selfish, hypocritical and have my head firmly in the bloodied sands. The problem is, I really do believe we should be eating meat
So where does that leave me? I’m not entirely sure. My views, as ever, are largely under-developed, over-thought and seriously changeable at this time.
I’m pretty sure there’ll be a reaction though. At least it might help me build a better bloody argument (assumes crash position).