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Hollywood anyone?

17 Oct

Last week I had my first intimate wax in 15 years.

Okay, before you drum up an image of some hirsute Frida Kahlo-type, I’ve been keeping the bare essentials in check with a razor.  But like all things feminine and indulgent and personal- grooming I haven’t had time for much more than a ” bic & go”  since the eldest was born.

But I’d finally decided enough was enough. At 35  it was time to start noticing again. Start trimming the hedge properly so to speak before the good lord starts turning it grey or, god forbid, taking it away entirely. (Does that even HAPPEN?)

So anyway, I was at the local depilation salon perusing the “menu” when I began to feel just a little bit out of my depth.

Bikini waxing – your choice from American, Landing strip, Brazilian or Playboy”.

I quickly checked my surroundings thinking perhaps I’d taken a wrong turn and ended up in a specialist offy selling exotic rums.

You see, in my day a wax was a wax.  A few stray cats whiskers pulled and plucked, a run-away spider de-legged before the swimming season began.  Cheap paper towel tucked into bikini bottoms. Legs akimbo.  Schlip. Schlip. And we were done.

But not now.  No. Now you need to be a discerning connoisseur in hair removal.  Where once it was just about minimising embarrassment, now its all about expression and seduction and the perfect aesthetic. And quite frankly, it’s intimidating.

And I don’t even want to imagine what position you need to get your self into to achieve the Hollywood, nor what the poor beautician has to look at. Noone should have to see that without at least an MSc.

So how did it go, or rather how much? I’m not even sure I’ve stopped blushing for long enough to take a look.

Three children and too much information

14 Dec

As most of you will know I have 3 children. Well I have 2 children that I gave birth to, but a few years ago I acquired a third – a 92 yr old neighbour called Walter who has variously called me fat, told me I have bad breath and asked me whether I wanted his (dead) wife’s open pack of stockings.

Walter is a German ex prisoner-of-war who has no family or friends in this country, and who has, over the years, alienated the rest of our neighbourhood. Apparently they don’t take too kindly to being asked whether they are pregnant again or just fat, and are not buttered up by a half eaten packet of eclairs.

On the other hand, we’ve become really rather fond of Walter over the years; however, we definitely have a love/hate relationship. Having someone knock on the glass partition of your adjoining porch doors 7 times a day to get your attention would rattle even the world’s most patient person.  But we do try and do our best for him, which in reality is rather a lot. Doing his shopping, taking phone calls, arranging appointments, doing his weekly lottery, putting his socks on, taking his measurements for new underwear.  I’ve drawn the line at cleaning his house and washing his feet but not much else has really come between us.

A few weeks ago I walked in on him having a wee in the washing machine. Neither he nor I batted an eyelid. Apparently the past 5 years have foistered an intimacy and understanding that is not shattered by the sight of a 92 yr old penis.

In any case, my children got their own back on me tonight. Finally sitting down on the toilet with the paper and some peace and quiet I hear the familiar bang bang on the glass partition door. “Leave it” I shout downstairs as I hear my eldest turn the handle and slowly open the front door. “Walter” he shouts really loudly (Walter is also profoundly deaf) “Walter” he screams, just incase the rest of the neighbourhood hasn’t heard,”you’ll have to knock back later, mummy’s on the toilet doing a poo”.

To be honest, I wasn’t even too bothered. Apparently we’re well passed any embarrassment over MY bodily functions as well.


5 Aug

A couple of years ago I went through a period of acting a bit strangely.

I’d been in the middle of a third life crisis for a while , and I think in hindsight I was also struggling after becoming a mum the second time round. Little Milk had been testing to say the least – “a big character” some might say. “A frickin lunatic” I’d proffer.  Off the career ladder and looking after pooing/screaming kids 24/7 and I found myself asking “is this it?”. Somewhere in the midst of all that soul searching and quizzing and introspection the subject of my own mortality came up, as if it was the only major milestone left I could think of. Not exactly rational. But I was hooked.

I just couldn’t stop thinking about what it was going to be like when the time came, how it might happen, and when.  I also became unhealthily fixated on obituary sites. Now if you’ve never visited a site like “Gone too soon” (my favourite) let me explain. They’re a chance for people to write memorials to the recently deceased, or to commemorate the anniversary of an old passing, or to mourn the loss of a baby born pre-term.  The title is a clue to the fact that most of the deaths are unexpected, sudden, shocking; due to illness (usually cancer), accidents (fires, car crashes) and a really surprising amount to murder. Many are described in horrific detail and many put to music, most commonly “Every breath I take” by The Police. Needless to say they are heart-wrenching, deeply upsetting and reflect a horrible part of life that you usually try to ignore.  That is, evidently, unless you are me.

For a while it was all I thought about, and it scared the shit out of me.

Thankfully there was some forced intervention this obsession slowed and I got on with living.

In any case, when my mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer I was a bit worried to say the least. I expected my fear of death to my dragged up again and to find myself rocking back and forth in a darkened room, curtains billowing and Police on the stereo at full blast.  But I didn’t, and I haven’t.

Actually I’ve been pretty sane. In fact I was thinking today, it doesn’t scare me anymore, the death stuff. I think the thing is, the more you cope with, the less you fear. It’s somehow easier to put it in perspective and be stoical. Now I just find myself thinking – “Either there’ll be nothing and I won’t know any different (in which case, duh, get over it), or I’ll get to see my mum again”.  And that last bit just makes me smile. Wouldn’t that be something.

Thanatophobia “An intense fear of death”.

Next post: Not about death. I PROMISE!

Milk Retrospective: Friends for life

19 Jul

I thought it was time for some reflection. I posted this originally in November 2010. 8 months later and me and my lovely friend Joy are back in touch. Both mothers now, living in the same city again; things have moved full circle. And the special magic? Still very much there.

Tonight i found out that an old friend of mine had become a mum, and i never even knew she was pregnant. I feel absolutely gutted.

It’s not that i feel it’s my right to have known. I haven’t seen her in nearly two years. It’s just in those few words she might as well have drawn a line from here to China and said i’m here and you’re there.

Everyone has those friends, the ones you hardly ever see or speak to, but they’re special to you, and if you never saw them again that wouldn’t change it. You shared something important and that stays with you.

Every now and then something reminds you of them, and you feel a tugging in your heart. A cliche for sure, but the truth. It’s a real physical longing, a pang of regret, a feeling that something is unfair, amiss, that circumstances rather than choice have drawn you unjustly apart.

So i’ve been feeling a bit sad. Mourning a friendship that i wish i still had in exactly the same way i did when i was 16.

But then my sister said something to me today which made total sense. You mourn that friendship because you feel that you have lost it, but actually the something special you shared is always there. In the end that part of your life is still special, still cherished, even if the friendship has changed, become distant, or passed.

What’s more, just because someone’s not a part of your life in the here and now, doesn’t mean they never will be again. That’s the thing with these special friendships, they pop up again when you least expect it. And the best thing of all is that when they do, the magic is still there.

So if you’re reading this, I love you Joy. I miss you. But i’ll be waiting here for you until i’m old and grey, if you ever fancy a natter. I know for sure we’d talk for hours, and I’d laugh a lot.

I am grateful

9 Jun

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.

The natural order of things

22 May

Losing my mum stinks. I miss her with an ache, an emptiness that throbs away in the pit of my stomach, a sadness that never dissipates.   Tears are rare for they seem pointless.  I have nowhere to go with my grief, cannot replace what is lost, or make it better with a good cry or a restful night’s sleep.

But sitting alongside and comforting me, holding my hand and pushing my chin up, is the sense that somehow at least, this is the natural order of things. A few years too early – ten, maybe even twenty years but not unnatural, grossly distorted or sickeningly unfair.  Every child must lose their mother. Though I wouldn’t choose it, I can carry it.

If I had lost my mother just 12 months ago, 6 months even,  I fear I would have fallen apart. Still lacking confidence, unsure of who I was or what I would become. But things have changed for me this past year; I have felt myself grow stronger, more centred, calmer, and I seem strangely prepared, more accepting.  More than this, since the day my mum died I have felt as if all her strength, dignity, calm has been transposed into me. Her gift. And it seems to carry me, even in my darkest moments.

Every child must lose their mother, and it is the task of the parent to prepare them for that. To give them the skills, the fortitude, the drive to live their lives.  My mum gave all this to me, and  though I ache for her, long for it to be different, I  sense that this is my time, that she is there willing me on, that this is what life is about. Me and my babies. Nature’s cycle.

And I think about the infants that lose their mothers before the nurturing has come to an end.  To me that is unnatural and devastating. Everyone must lose their mother, but not before they have given their blessing and passed over the mantel freely and with love.

An enormous embarrassment

26 Mar

My husband says I can sometimes be a loose cannon. Say something inappropriate or tactless in the middle of a social gathering. Strange that, I always thought I was the picture of decency, tact and sensitivity. That my tendency to be direct, honest, say what I think was a good thing. You knew where you stood with me. I was “real” <strikes finger scissor pose>.

I’ve never really doubted the accuracy of my own self-perception before, but now I’m getting older, and seemingly increasingly uncool, I have started to wonder – can we ever really judge ourselves objectively? Is the person we see in the mirror actually anything like the person other people see?

Sure, I’ve sometimes said the wrong thing, like that time I asked the policeman whether he’d ever killed someone during a school visit.  Or the time I told a spa employee I never played the lottery becuase the statistics show you’re more likely to be shot in the UK than win the lottery. “Umm, we don’t usually tell our customers that” he whispered, as the queue of customers waving their red slips behind me looked quizzical.

I went to dinner the other night with some people I’d never met before and I ended the evening (having said not much at all up until this point) by sharing an anecdote I’d learnt the night before about the history of vibrators. Totally unexpectedly, and without any context. When my husband told me the following morning I laughed it off  ” Well at least I didn’t tell them I’d learnt  that particular nugget from a penis pump review”.  <silence>

Ok, so maybe I sometimes really do get it wrong, but a regular embarrassment? A loose cannon?

The thing is, I have to admit that these events are starting to happen more and more frequently. The dad dancing in the corner moments.  The problem is, I AM thinking before I speak, considering the consequences, and I DO think what I’m about to say is funny, sage, tactful.  So if it’s my judgement that’s wrong, what hope is there? Soon I’ll be asking pot-bellied body dismorphic 20-somethings if they want a seat.

Oh, by the way, here’s the bit about the vibrators. Did you know GPs used to manually relieve “crazy” women before….

Milk’s hips don’t lie

20 Jan

This morning I lost all the remaining dignity I possessed (and believe me as a mother you’re not left with much).  And guess what? I frickin’ loved it!

No I didn’t go to work with my skirt tucked into my pants, or feel my hold ups slip to my ankles as I pounded the city streets  (that was last week). No, this morning  I tried Zumba.

Oh my God dear lovely Milk readers – it is absolutely amazing. I am so excited I feel like a 5-yr-old loaded up on e after a birthday party.

It’s a mixture of dance styles – latin, african, caribbean. It is as high-energy as a nun on steriods, as raucous as a donkey on heat, as embarrassing as pole dancing  in front of your granddad. But my God is it liberating.

It reminds me of a time when I was travelling in Mexico and we’d decided to take a short, unscheduled hop across to Isla de Mujeres in Belize. An amazing place with a real laid-back caribbean feel. We’d ended up at a bar on the beach, 3 white girls attracting some attention. One particular smooth belizian man was coaxing me into dancing with him, hands on my hips guiding me this way and that. “Loosen’ up ladeee, feel the rytherm”. Let’s just say within 5 minutes he’d handed me back my drink. My european ass just didn’t move like he wanted it to. More cement than sweet syrup.

In any case, I’m sure this is exactly what I looked like this morning. A caucasian nerd with as much rythym as an ageing lab rat. In my head I was Shakeera, all snake hips and bouncing booty. To the mirror, a pole-dancing nun. More Asamoah Gyan than Justin Trousersnake.

20 years ago I would’ve run out of that gym covering my face with my hands and shouting “shame”, but now that I’m in my 30s, I embraced my inner dork with gusto.

Just be sure not to tell Dita that Milk’s on the prowl, there’s no saying what might happen.

That moment : Part two

17 Jan

This post is a “kind of” answer to That moment.

If we don’t know what might happen to us, if we are frightened by the “what ifs”, if we are constantly looking over our shoulder for that speeding car, what then? It’s pretty bleak isn’t it?   There will be those of us that think about these things, and those of us that will run a hundred miles an hour to get away from it. I’m pretty sure the latter will have groaned, clicked close and returned to the singing puppy by now.

“If you spend your whole life waiting for the storm, you’ll never enjoy the sunshine. – Morris West”.

For me, this is the only real answer. I’ve spoken before about being rather than doing, or being rather than thinking in this instance. The age-old anecdote “Why worry about it, it may never happen” but put in a rather less irritating way, and not by a smart-arse builder. I remember taking out a book from the library once on “Finding happiness” by the Dalai Lama (yes I probably had too much time on my hands, new mother and all that) and naiively expecting some kind of 5-step guide to eternal optimism. At the time I was pretty disappointed that all he seemed to have up his sleeve was an appreciation for pretty flowers.

However, in hindsight Mr Lama was quite right of course. If we allow our imaginations to run wild, to consider all the things that might happen to us, to twist and turn around a maze that has no middle, what is the point in that? Where would all that energy get us in the end?  All we can do is enjoy the here and now, for soon the now becomes the then and the here becomes the over there, and the soon becomes the….hmmm, well you get what I mean anyway.

And if it does happen, if the worst thing you could possibly think of comes along and sits on your lap, will you fall apart? Choke? Vomit?  Someone once said to me after I’d been depressing them to death about my fear of my own mortality  “So what if you die, what would be so bad about that?” It was a very strange kind of question – and surprisingly difficult to answer. I stuttered about trying to formulate a response “Umm, well it’s the unknown, the not knowing where I’d be”. “But you’re dead”. “Ummm, it’s the thought of not being here anymore, and I can’t get my head around that”. But you wouldn’t have to get your head around it, you’d be dead”.  And so on.

“It all happens for a reason. If it’s been put on you, then that means you can carry it” (Tony Gaskins)

I love this idea, I find it really reassuring. It re-establishes some kind of order, gives me back some control. There is a purpose behind events, you are “chosen” because that is your journey. Nothing is random, unpredictable, devastating like the speeding car. Your challenge is taking you by the hand and asking you to lead it, because you are the one with all the answers.  Somewhere within you you have all the power, the resilence, the foresight.

I suppose that’s a pretty humungous dose of spirituality right there, in fact I’m starting to sound a bit like sodding Billy Graham, really scary for an atheist who usually prejudices against religious types (my friend Simone will have a field day).  But you see, the thing is I’ve seen first hand the strength of the human soul. There is something there so great, so wonderful, so determined – that “that moment” could never ultimately have the upper hand. We will always survive, always win, always learn, always pick ourselves up and move on.

That is not the same as forgetting. It is not the same as no longer feeling the pain. But it is living, moving on, and I’ve seen enough of it in the past few weeks to know that in my heart, if the speeding car comes, I will be ready.

A parent or a friend?

4 Dec

“I’m so going to smoke pot with my children when i’m older”. How many times did i hear that when i was a teenager? The coolest kids in school had parents who’d sit around smoking pot with them and all their mates, sometimes even buying them the odd can of watery lager from the local cash and carry. I still hear similar stuff from time to time, but now it’s more along the lines of “If they’re gonna do it, i’d rather know about it” or “I’d rather they got the stuff from me, at least i’d know where it came from”. To be honest, i’d rather not know. Or at least i’d rather not see it. Of course my children are going to experiment. To be honest, i’d be more worried if they didn’t. It’s a part of adolescence, a time of experimenting and risk taking, an evolution-supported rite of passage into adulthood. But surely you experiment with your friends not with your parents?

Here’s what i believe:

My kids are going to do a lot of this stuff anyway. Alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, meaningless, fumbling sex, sleeping in holly bushes outside school because you’ve said you’re staying at eachother’s houses (hmm, ok so that one was me). But I want them to have the right morals so that when it really comes to it, they make the right decisions. Fumble about in the back of a car and try and cop a feel under a girl’s bra when she’s not looking, but know to stop when she tells you to. Eat a few space cakes and giggle childishly with your mates, but know it’s time to stop and take care of them when they’re getting weepily paranoid. Tut at your drunken friend in the corner eating faces with a man a few too many years older, but insist you’re going too if she decides a party back at their place is too good an opportunity to miss. I want them to have enough ambition and self belief to mean that all this experimentation and risk taking is a phase and that ultimately they will want more.

My husband believes passionately that choosing the right friends is probably the most important choice any teenager will make. He always uses the example of Euan Blair. Left on his own in Trafalgar Square by his so-called-mates, too drunk to get himself home, prey to sniggering onlookers and passing journalists. Any friends worth their salt would have walked him the 5 miles home, on their backs and being intermittently puked on if they really had to.

As a parent I don’t need to be part of all this. I don’t want to the one they talk to after a night out and tell all the gory details to. Let them do that in a hushed phonecall while whining “Mum, can you stop listening, am i not allowed ANY p-r-i-v-a-c-y”.

I do believe that there is a line between parents and children. An unwritten code. Children learn appropriate behaviour this way. They just need a secure enough framework to know that when a bit of experimentation goes wrong their family WILL be there to pick them up when noone else can. If they’ve popped a pill and their useless friends have left them on their own with no way of getting home, then I absolutely want it to be me they call, but I want them calling with their tail firmly between their legs. I want them to be expecting a bit of tutting on the way home, tediously repetitive pleading with them “to grow up and stop acting so selfishly for a change”. But despite all that they’ll call because they know they’re loved unconditionally, and no amount of foolish behaviour is going to change that.

I don’t want to be their friend. I want to be their mum. A hip, stylish, wise and super hot mum, but a mum all the same.