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7 years 3 months 15 days

1 Aug

34 years you live with a person. Not A person, but THE most important person that will probably ever be in your life, the person that brought you into the world. And then they’re gone, and it’s like you start a new life, unrecognisable from the life you led before. A before life, and an after life. Two completely different entities. 7 years 3 months and 15 days on, and I feel like i dont’ remember her. I feel like my life, the person that I am now has no relation to her, like she never existed, and yet I know that she did, and that she was the most important person in my life for such a long time. I close my eyes and try to remember her, but I can’t see her face, I can’t hear her voice, I can’t feel her. I wish I could feel her.


Is Facebook killing your self-esteem?

12 Jun

facebook sanityA lot of my friends and acquaintances seem to have left Facebook recently on mental health grounds. Apparently it’s the most liberating thing you can do in the 21st century.  Personally I like to believe I’m one of those more mature Facebook users who can separate weak-chat from chaff-chat, who uses the social network purely for life enhancing reasons, but  in truth I’m kidding myself.

For sure I love the banter, the sharing of funny stuff, moving stuff, crazy stuff. I love bonding over a cat leaping like superman out of an open window before falling to the ground like Wiley Coyote. I love the support I can show to other people going through difficult times. The understanding, the connection, the commeraderie.  However, the reality is I’m no more immune to that “other” stuff than they are.  The stuff that makes you feel bad about yourself, unfulfilled,  not quite good enough. The stuff that sees you compare yourself to other people over and over again.

I have an old friend on Facebook I haven’t seen for nearly 2 decades who’s become my “what if”  friend.  Single, living abroad with the body I once had (pre-kids), the career I lost,  the clothes, the social life.  I can’t help but compare and contrast and come up short.  In reality, this person  is probably looking through MY profile and crying over MY husband and MY kids.  Stupid irony.

Then there’s the friends I’ve lost touch with. The ones I see in photos posted by their other friends looking happy and smiling – that is happy and smiling without me.  And it tugs at you. They’ve chosen to spend their lives with these other people and as silly as it is, it feels like rejection.

I can count on one hand the number of Facebook friends I continue to interact with in any kind of meaningful way once the Facebook honeymoon period is over. Those early days of comparing and contrasting and measuring myself up, with nothing to show for it but a  black mark on my soul. The “There’s yet another friend that’s doing better than you” Facebirthmark.

So it’s clear then, if I value my soul and my sanity I should hang up my Facebook hat and start living my life in the REAL world where REAL people live, not with the better versions that are carefully constructed and lived out online.

Let’s be honest here, I am pretty great, but I’m nowhere near as great as I appear online.

So what do you think? Is it about time YOU saved your soul from Facebook self-destruct?

selective eating and my 7-yr-old

11 Jun


My 7-yr-old is on the beige food diet.

I’ve tried to explain many times why it’s important to eat brightly coloured foods but we just spend hours arguing the toss over yellow.  Apparently cheese is bright yellow and therefore counts.  So now we talk about green and red foods.  He definitely doesn’t eat any of those, preferring the general brownness of the sausage, the bread and the potato.

He went through the typical fussy stage at 2 alongside all of his other preschoolers.  Us mums used to giggle around the lunch table as our little ones screamed and squawked and refused to eat, happy in solidarity. But then all his friends got through that stage and started to accept a small amount of broccoli on the side of their plate. Or worst case on a separate plate. But Big Milk wouldn’t so much as hear speak of broccoli.

We decided pretty early doors that we weren’t going to fight him over it. He clearly wasn’t budging and would rather forgo pudding of any kind than eat even a tiny mouthful of something he didn’t like. So I started hiding the vegetables anywhere I could find to put them. Whizzed up in tomato sauce which he’d eat in copious amounts with pasta. Then I’d use the leftovers on pizza bases; nutrition masquerading as fast food. Carrots were grated into bolognaise and peeled courgettes went undercover in homemade fish goujons.  He was none the wiser and in quiet triumph we rocked family meal times relatively stress-free.

But recently he’s declared war on all those foods he used to tolerate, favouring a much more militant beige-food-loving approach.  Out with the pasta sauce and the casseroles and the homemade fish pie. Down with potatoes if they dare to advance with their dirty bothersome jackets on. For the past few days at school he’s eaten bread and potatoes for lunch. So much for “Fresh fruit and salad offered daily”. Clearly he responds no better to their authority than he does to mine.

But worse than the worry and the frustration and the guilt you can’t help but feel as a parent, are those mums that stick their noses in the air and with a whiff declare “My kids wouldn’t get away with that. They’ll eat what they’re given!”. Mentally at this point I’m smashing their heads into the glass panel on my front door as I bare my teeth in a snarl loosely disguised as a smile.

You see, I don’t cram my child full of sweets and biscuits all day long and wonder why they won’t eat their dinner. I do not give in at the first whiff of an uprising by declaring “Oh Archie, just eat whatever you want and we’ll move straight onto pudding.” (Clearly my child’s not called Archie, but you get my meaning).  I am not a push-over-marshmallow-mum.  My child’s food issues go far beyond mere fusspotting; they are borderline phobic.

He doesn’t respond to an iron fist, shameful bribery or promises of a million pounds.  He doesn’t wave the white flag, exhausted after a 4 hour pea-stand-off.  His only response is retching and choking and sicking up into his own mouth.  In fact my child would be a pretty awesome hunger-strike activist if they’d allow such a thing.

The truth is,  if your children do what you say it’s not because you’re some kind of super youobeymeordie mum, it’s because your kids just aren’t that testing. You are blessed with the holy grail of childkind – compliant children – and sadly those are given out only randomly when the sperm greets the egg.

So for now I’ll re-establish my motherly zen and claw back perspective by evoking the wise words of my dear friend Steph  “Send A donation to Oxfam, for they have real feeding problems there.”

My friend and why I liked her

29 Mar

Yesterday I said goodbye to a very dear friend. I only found out recently that she was 84. Of course I knew she was in her later years, but her mid 80s? I’d never have guessed. She was such a youthful lady with a very young heart.  Her daughter told me recently that she still shaved her legs.  It didn’t surprise me.

The almost 50-year age gap just didn’t seem to matter. I hardly noticed it.  And meeting all her friends and family yesterday at the funeral, it was obvious that I wasn’t the only 30-something or even 10-something who’d laughed and loved and gossiped with her. How can someone cross generations so effortlessly?

To me, good friends are both interesting and interested.  The former seems obvious – we all like someone who is fun, can share a good story, and throw out a thought-provoking opinion, but to me it’s more than that. It’s someone that will give instinctively of themselves – who isn’t afraid to be open, to share not only the things that make them look good, but those that make them look weak, vulnerable, foolish even. I love people who are honest almost to a fault – not with malice or judgement towards other people – but about themselves.

Likewise, a person may be witty and intelligent and make you roar with laughter but if they’re not prepared to listen, a camaraderie will soon fall short of a friendship.  And finding someone who can really listen, who is genuinely interested in what you have to say because they value you, and like you, and are interested in the world, is something different.  Above everything else my friend was always willing to listen, always wanted to know what you were up to and what you thought and how you felt.  She was genuinely interested in other people and she made them feel important.

And if you have all those friendship ingredients? Age doesn’t matter – it simply gives you better stories to tell.


Marjory was my dad’s partner for the last years of his life and I will always owe her a debt of gratitude for the selfless care she took of him when he needed her most, and when he was incapable of giving much back.   But after he died our friendship didn’t endure because of the connection to my dad, nor from any sense of debt I felt to her; we remained friends simply because I really really liked her.


We miss you Marjory. Good friends don’t come along every day. xx


The changing perception of loss

15 Mar


I like to wander around old graveyards. Not in some macabre way (an unhealthy resurgence of my death-obsession),  I just find them fascinating, thought-provoking and strangely comforting.  To ponder how people lived, loved and died alongside their families, to witness how their remains have married with the earth, weeds growing round and into and under the headstones, destroying yet throwing forth life.

In the quiet and the stillness I always feel like an intruder, an interloper on past griefs.  Memories and emotions once so raw now mere whispers on the morning air,  dissipated and unnoticed but now momentarily disturbed by the inquisitive trespass of a stranger.

Thought-provoking and chastening that things once so important should have been brought to this.  And yet such a strangely reassuring display of the natural passing of time.

Do events and feelings and lives become irrelevant when there is noone left to remember them? Does it even matter?


The other day as I ambled through the graveyard of my local church, my two dogs aroused by the smells of morning dew,  I came across the headstone of a Victorian lady that had lost her husband in his forties, only to lose her 1 yr old child less than 4 months later, and a few years later her 10 yr old daughter.  Unconvinced that I could find another loss to beat this one (a sick graveyard game I often feel compelled to play), I  stumbled upon another grave erected to mark the passing of a young couple’s 3 girls who had died just 3 months apart.  10 months, 4 years, 6 years in age.  Cause unknown.

Sometimes my loss feels so enormous, and yet so small when I read of other families devastated like this. To lose a mum at 71 would have seemed mere fantasy 100 years ago. To get through life without feeling the loss of a child? Blessed good fortune.

And as I turn on the television tonight to hear of the plight of those in Africa, thousands dying from Malaria and Aids, I realise this luck isn’t only divided by time, but by continent too.

And  I feel acutely my luck, rather than my loss.


Don’t forget to donate to Comic Relief this Red Nose Day. 

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.

I Blog therefore I Am

18 Aug

I wasn’t sure I would blog again. You miss a week here or there, and then you find it more and more difficult to get back into the game. The blogging world shifts, new faces appear and before you know it, you feel like an outsider tiptoeing on the periphary of something, uncertain whether you want back in.  A bloggy voyeur.

But the nagging feeling keeps gnawing away. Should i? Can i?

So I’m writing this post out of curiosity more than anything. Interested to see how those keys might feel under my fingers, whether the words will flow.

So much has happened these past 18 months and I’ve changed.  No longer identifying with  Marketing OR Milk, the line drawing of mother and child, nor the over-expectant tagline.

Perhaps that’s why I stopped writing.  If I don’t know who I am, who the hell am I writing for?  But hasn’t that always been the point of my writing  – to question, search, define and CHANGE?

And whoever this person might be, wherever she might be going (and believe me, at the moment she has no clue) I quite like her. She’s older, wiser, a little sad at times, and definitely prone to an embarrassing outburst or two, but perhaps still with something to say.

And as I write, the familar feeling of release takes over: Each word like a small tentative cut:  Slowly relaxing.

Shameful, playful self-harm.

Cigarette packets are cool. Fact. Just ask your kids.

2 May

If you’re a mum, or a dad. If you hate the thought of your kids taking up smoking. If you believe that cigarettes shouldn’t be marketed in the same way as any other consumer product, let alone marketed specifically at your teenagers. Then watch this.

This is why I’ve been banging on about the plain packaging campaign by Cancer Research UK.

If you care less about any of this then please sign the petition.

I don’t know if it’ll make an ounce of difference, but I do know that cigarettes are not the same as oven pizza or soap, so they shouldn’t be marketed the same way.

My mum the addict….a blog in support of Cancer Research

16 Apr

I have come out from behind my wall of silence today to speak over at the Cancer Research Blog in support of their latest campaign to weaken the marketing power of tobacco companies. To talk about what smoking did to my mother and me, and why I would do anything to stop my own kids from getting hooked. I’d appreciate your support so please come and have a read and leave a comment here if you can – especially as tomorrow is the 1st year anniversary of losing my darling mum who I miss and yearn for every day.

If you wish to read more about what cigarettes have done to my family, or what the journey has been like check out these posts.


My writing soul: is it goodbye?

5 Feb

I hoped the silence would be temporary, but I think perhaps the past year has taken more out of me than I realised, and now we are moving city and schools and lives. So I fear the silence might be permanent.

I hope I’ll find my writing soul again, but a part of me believes that maybe I found writing at just the right time, or rather writing found me, to carry me and give voice to my tortured thoughts at a very difficult time.

Can you write your heart out and have anything left to say? Only time will tell.

In the meantime you can still find me over at In The Powder Room for my regular weekly column on a Thursday. So I’m still writing and mixing it up – a little.