Sunday, 19 June 2016

Class of '91

A rash of pictures were posted on Facebook, many of the class of 1991 squeezed into their finest formal dresses and stiff tuxes. Nostalgia kicked in and before we knew it there was talk of a 25 year reunion. Initially there was much enthusiasm and promises of attending. But as the day drew nearer, some folk dropped out, others were understandably busy and most of those I still keep in touch with declined to go.

So I debated it - should I buy some flights, set plans in stone? Or would I take the line many spouted, 'I see those I want to see, have kept in touch with my close friends, so why bother going?' But the more I thought it through - the more my gut yelled out 'Just GO!' 

Yeah, I still see a fair few from my school days - in fact I made the best friends of my life there - but to swerve a reunion because 'if you haven't seen them in 25 years then why bother now' somewhat missed the point... You go because you remember the laugh you had in second year chemistry with S or the sneaky fags you smoked on route to squash/rowing with H... The bus journey home with J and secret crush you had on X...  You go to see if anyone has changed and if so how? You go because at least 7 if not more are no longer walking on this planet and so you are a lucky one... you are still here. You go because the organisers are old buddies who have put so much energy and time into gathering the masses and you want to support them. You go because there is something magical in meeting someone after 25 years and realising how much you missed them. You go because so many of these people knew you at your most YOU and still love you. You go because life is short and jaysus where did 25 years disappear?

You go because you were so damn lucky to know so many great, generous, funny, warm people who 25 years on are still exactly that. Of course in a year of 270, there are folk you barely remember, or never even knew. There are many who you wished were there who didn't show up. There is never enough time to get around everyone and hear their stories, filling in the years... 

But one thing I never expected - was to see so much joy. Everyone smiling and hugging and just so pleased to be there. There was no boasting or bragging, or evil looks of the 'you ruined my life when I was 13'; there was no animosity or hidden resentments rising to the surface after the seventh pint... There was just a room of tipsy happy folk dancing to 80s and 90s tunes and remembering just how good we all had it... It was like 25 years had never happened. 

I'm beyond glad I went. Most of all I'm pleased so many folk are well and happy - life hasn't knocked all the youth and chutzpah and enthusiasm from them. They still shone. Roll on 2021. Wouldn't miss it for the world. 

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Good Grief

The whole week, my stomach had churned with fear and paranoia and some kind of unresolved stress. I'd been writing a script and convinced myself that it would end badly - I'd get pulled off the draft, that I'm out of my depth, that I'm just a big old fake. Hell, maybe I had PMT thrown into the mix - but since my hysterectomy, these days I don't have periods to solve the query of 'why am I behaving so crazily?' I swear to god, it was like I knew it wasn't going to end well. I just had this bad feeling, this impending sense of doom.

Then, standing on a freezing cricket pitch, at 6:08pm,  having just dropped my son off after our worst row ever - I got a text from my friend Thea, saying 'have you seen this, I think it's a hoax.' It was a link to a newspaper article. I caught sight of the headline and just froze. Her text was followed by Facebook messages and phone calls, did I know the news? Prince was dead.

It was like the world stopped. Time stopped. I just couldn't begin to accept this news, take it in, process it in any way. I stumbled to my local pub, hoping alcohol would numb my sense of loss - feeling faintly ridiculous that I was so traumatised by his untimely death. Because, how is it possible that one can be so devastated about the loss of someone one has never met?

It's hard to put into words for those who don't understand. See with me, if you asked anyone to sum up the loves of my life that aren't my family and mates - really, it's 3: Movies, Halloween and Prince.
All 3 have brought me untold joy - but only one was/is my hero. I loved him for 32 years - and in so many ways he inspired me, in so many ways he saved me.

Those who don't have huge passions in life - save that of making bucks - aren't gonna get it. Because a passion in life - a true passion - is never about ££££. It's about the sheer buzz that it gives you. How happy it makes you feel. Likewise those with cosy cheery upbringings are never gonna know what it is like to feel saved by music - to feel less alone when you hear a song that sounds like it has been written for you alone. All through my life, Prince was with me every step of the way - and the pinnacle of all of that was getting to hear him live. Man, it was such an electric experience - mainly because he loved performing so much - it was like nothing on earth. I'm gutted beyond words that I'll never hear him again jam to Let's go Crazy, or tease us with Hot Thing or lead us melodically to Paisley Park. That I'll never see him get off to his own brilliant music.

Losing him, is a loss to the world musically, and a loss to me simply because that little bit of joy - the anticipation of playing the 'where is he playing tonight' game has gone. The maze we all went through to get tickets, to queue for hours, to show our devotion. All gone. Of course, we have his music - his incredible legacy - and perhaps much more will be unveiled as his Vault is opened... But the world suddenly feels less bright, life feels more finite, time feels more precious.

I don't give a fuck about anyone who judges me for my grief and my sense of loss. How dare anyone tell you how to feel. With grief - there is no right or wrong. You just are.

I take comfort in knowing so many others felt exactly as I did - not least that so many revered musicians such as Pearl Jam, The Stones, Elton John, Springsteen, Madonna, Stevie Wonder, Lenny Kravitz and the remaining Beatles all commented that he was the greatest performer that they had ever seen, greatest guitarist - with Justin Timberlake stating a fact - that day, 21st April 2016 we lost the world's greatest living musician. Some fan groups I'm a member of all shared bootlegs and interviews and articles and what not - that has made the last week more bearable, and one of discovery - finding out so much about the most private man in pop.

Babble asked me to write something, which I did after a sleepless night, at 5am the next day. A week on and I'm still sad, but I'm grateful that I saw him 5 times including his last ever UK gig - where he was energetic and youthful and brilliant as he was 20 years ago...

He wasn't just a celebrity to me. He felt like a buddy, a companion who understood when everyone else did not. He was one of the greatest loves of my life. Even though I never met him, I'll miss him forever.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Happy as a clam

Years ago I had a friend call Tanya. She was witty and smart, a businesswoman, a dog lover and a body hater. She was amazonian and tall, but in her mind she was wildly overweight -  forever trying to diet and find a way of liking herself. At the time I was a stone and a half heavier than I am now, from a traveller's diet of fries and nachos washed down with cocktails and beer. I too despaired about my figure, so she sent me to see her trainer, a lovely beefy bulky chap called fetchingly, 'Rainbow.'

Rainbow got out his callipers - measured my flab and announced I was obese. I walked along the Auckland waterside and wept. It was Fri 13th Nov 1995. I was the only traveller I have ever met who got herself a nutritionist on her trip around the world. Jenny took no prisoners and certainly no fat and basically shamed me into losing 10kgs. She made me write a food diary, hit the gym, forgo carbs, say goodbye to creamy cocktails and sugary shakers and embrace vodka, fresh lime and soda. Single measures. (Single measures!!!)  She gave me a back a flat stomach and the ability to climb back into my jeans. God bless her.

I left Auckland a good deal smaller than when I'd arrived. The year before when I was planning my big world trip, I had folded jumpers in Gap, and my main food source was the tasty salty fatty produce from the Thomas Bakery across the road. Pasties, sausage rolls and cheese sandwiches had filled my days and helped me fill my clothes - and then some. So by the time I'd even landed in NZ, I was curvy and then some.

Tanya, and her trainer both told me one thing. It doesn't matter what size you are as long as you are happy. Whoever is happy in their skin gets the gold star. I always remembered that - and through my years of curves, my months of skinny and all the stages in between, my figure has never made me happy or indeed really sad. My body has produced two fabulous kids, made me rarely sick, supported me in all my endeavours and although isn't toned to perfection, is reasonably strong.

Lately, I've been looking around and noticing that Tanya's line about life applies not just to waist size, but to all spheres. It doesn't matter what car you drive, what house you live in, what clothes you throw on your back, what job you do - if you aint happy - nothing is gonna bring you joy. I watch as I see folk struggle to find what makes them happy - they think it will be if they have the next rung on the career ladder, the 4th bedroom and kitchen extension, the botox, the diet, the new shoes. The goalposts move every time and happiness, it just seems that little bit away - just out of reach, every time.

Recently a good mate RK told me of how her kid was bullied at school by another child. This vicious little bugger announced to my friend's son that 'you live in a house only worth £200k, your Mum is poor and you'll end up being a cleaner when you are older.' None of these statements are true - and even if they were there is nothing wrong with being any of them. I was astounded that a kid of 11 could even think this way - could be so cruel, so materialistic. Thankfully my friend's son is a great kid and he responded saying he would grow up, get a wife and have kids and have loads of mates - and that is what mattered. That soon silenced vicious kid.

It got me thinking - what makes me happiest of all? What times in my life have I been filled up with joy? They all involve my family, my friends, sunshine, sometimes the sea, wine, chat and laughter. They all - every single one of them - are an experience, not a 'thing.' Sure, my work has brought me joy - I love writing beyond measure - but the real joy of my working days has been in the fun I have had with colleagues. As my mate RK said to her son, 'People make you happy - that's the key.'

I'm as guilty as the next person in coveting stuff - reading blogs by fashion starlets in their 20s who spend days in the bath slathering themselves in products or in the gym, fashioning elaborate breakfasts with eggs and avocados and having endless time to pour over clothes and pick cushions - and I have thought - dear god why is that not me??? Then I remembered I've been there and had fun and did all that - thankfully when lives weren't lived online. I've had the pre-kids years when you dance round London dating and spend £400 on a meal for two at the newest wanky restaurant. It was ace, but I'm happier now watching Jurassic World and eating the kids' Easter eggs.

It took me a long time, and it is a constant journey - the cliched marathon not a sprint - but I get what Tanya meant. Being happy in the here and now - that's the gold star.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Hello 2016....

It's January so the papers and rags are filled with obligatory shots of gym bunnies and relentless articles on hot 'new' diets that pledge to revolutionise our bodies if we eat some seeds and nuts and drink vegetable smoothies until we are a walking colonic.  What I find hilarious about them all - is essentially they are all saying the same thing, dressed up in fancy new ways: eat more veg, drink more water, run around more and you will feel better. Any fool can see that a diet of cake and burgers isn't going to shift the tyre around your middle.

I'm not stupid enough to limit myself for eternity to eating no carbs and ignoring the call of a freshly baked carrot cake - so I'm going Bear Grylls. No, I'm not going to drink my own piss and forage for snails in the garden - I'm doing the 80/20 idea. So Mon - Fri I will be virtuous and Sat/Sun show me the pizza! Husband says that with my daily Nutri bullet shake (TIP - add protein powder for a creamy fab shake - and less water) and my lunch of courgetti and crab with lemon and chilli - I have a fairly balanced diet anyway. So why is it so hard these days to shift 6 pounds? Because dear readers, I am over 40 - when your metabolism slows down as well as everything else.

My main rule of eating is this - cook it yourself. So bar the odd Thai curry paste, I make every sauce and dressing and meal and snack myself. Fresh local produce - bar the odd avocado. When I say odd, I mean I eat 2 a day... The only issue - is a healthy 'Eat Nourish Glow' life takes time and £££££££££. All that fresh fish (monkfish cost the price of a second mortgage) and nuts and oils and chia seeds cost so much more than a white loaf and a packet of cheese. I spent a whopping £30 on two packs of Chia seeds the other day - and actually screamed for joy in the shop when the cashier announced it was 'buy one get one for a penny.' It was almost workout carrying the 4 packs home. Protein powder, flaxseeds and fresh fruit - not cheap either. Is the idea we all are so skint we can't afford to eat and thus lose weight?

Anyway, this blog wasn't meant to be about food - it was meant to be about hopes and plans for 2016.  Because you have to have them, right? The minute Big Ben chimes, you've got to know EXACTLY what you are giving up and taking up for the next 365 days. Most of which you will have taken up again/given up trying by Jan 11th.

So I aint giving up any vice - bar alcohol for Jan. Not to help my liver - but just to prove to myself I can go 31 days without a drink and not kill my husband and give away my kids. Stayed tuned.

But having read Caitlin Moran's column yesterday - I decided I am giving one thing: anxiety. I have spent so much of my life worrying what every fecker thinks - worrying am I 'good enough,' worrying that I will fail - and you know what? The worst - what I am expecting to be the worst - never ever happens. It is the things you NEVER expect that blindside you. A dear writer mate also said that after year and years of stressing because he felt his muse, his ideas would never appear - only for them always to appear - he has stopped stressing. It doesn't help - it isn't a necessary part of the creative process. I spent most of last year with stomach churning angst - especially over the summer - thinking I simply couldn't write. While I'm no Sarah Treem - I am me. And I can do it. I have just remind myself of this and try not to stress over it all so much.

So like Caitlin and like my mate Chris, I am giving up anxiety. It will be the hardest challenge of my life I reckon - so ingrained in me is stress - but I've got to - as it makes me ill. I had a wee read of this guy Gerad Kite (an acupuncturist)'s advice for a calmer life in yesterday's Times mag - and I have to say - I'll be employing as many of his tactics as I can. (The man is a revelation).

Because dear readers, I am anything but calm. I am a stress head, insaneo worry wort when it comes to all things stress. I am OCD. I am a control freak. I need to sort this before I take myself to an early grave. Headspace app here I come.

So my plans are thus: I'm stepping away from as much social media as is possible. I never really indulged in Instagram - and am bored of Facebook. For all it's joys and sharing it is also a performance and we are all guilty of dancing to that tune. Who cares if 56 folk or 560 like my glam pic - it doesn't change the fact I have dinner to make for the kids and 6 Ikea bags of laundry to fold...  Twitter is informative, so I'll cast an eye on it, but all else - including the sidebar of shame - must be gone.

I'm going to fear less. The greatest joy of my last few years has been striving in a new career and whilst it put the fear of god into my every step - I am now in my happiest ever place. I have life balance and it has taken me FOREVER to get here. Now I need the head balance to match it. Fear holds us back - makes us doubt ourselves when in fact we all got to where we are now, because we are so freakin' great. Deep down, we all know we can - we just need to have faith.

One of the happiest ever times of my life was on a beach in Devon. Diving through the roaring waves with my friend's daughter, looking up at the sun, the salt water momentarily stinging my eyes. I was utterly in that moment - not wishing for or being distracted by anything else. My motto of this year is to be more in the moment. Appreciate my Husband's great dinners, the walk to school on a crisp cold day, the first coffee of the morning, the view from my dining room table, the log fire at my side. I'm going to watch TV only - not sit on a laptop as I do. I'm going to go for more walks. Listen more than talk. (I know - I know - this one may be a lie... but I'll try) and not be thinking about the next thing on my endless to do list. Life is flying by at a hideous rate so I'm going to try and savour it that little bit more, in the hope it will last longer.

I am going to drink more water. I really am. I must remember to. My 40 year old mate M drinks tonnes of water and has the skin of teenager. It is something I must train myself to do.

Finally, I'm going to be nicer to myself. Husband says I am incapable of relaxing - that I just cannot shut down - I am always thinking of things that need done, writing lists and giving him tasks. That is true. I am incapable of going to bed if the cushions on the sofa are not straight - that - and other slightly cray cray behaviour have to go. I have to train myself to give less of a f*ck.

I always feel I must achieve every single day. That I should be doing XYZ - as 'look at what ABC is doing. I won't get to XYZ if I don't do ABC within the next day'. Well, to hell with that. Enough with the self flagellation. I'm dancing to my own little merry tune - and I need to slow it down to a tango instead of keeping up a foxtrot. Life is pretty great. Happiness isn't if we move house, go on hols, lose 10 pounds, meet Mr Right - it is right now. In each of us.

So here's to 2016. May you enjoy every moment.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Things I have learnt this year... #375

And so we say goodnight and goodbye to 2015. How was it for you?

Bizarrely, although 2014 was infinitely more financially challenging - it just radiated brilliance. Surprise trips and a summer of sunshine made it memorable, with 2015 somehow trailing in it's wake. And yet, I made more in roads in my career than I had ever hoped for; I shared many brilliant moments with people I love and I had the joy for being able to be much more present for my kids than in any other year before.

What I have leant without question is that whilst money doesn't make you happy - it sure is lovely not to have worry over every single pound. That whilst eating well and exercising do no harm to the body - the place they help the most is the mind. That opportunities abound - if you start to create them for yourself. Most of all, I have realised - take no one for granted - even yourself and your health.

What else?

- I have also learnt that I am no baker - but that is why Waitrose make fairy cakes that you can add a topping to and a choc button and voila! Home baking CM stylee.

- That you are lucky with kids to get 5 minutes to yourself. Which is why next year I must step away from more social media and go for long walks instead. Headspace is an underestimated joy....

- South Cross is the best gin I have ever had the joy to taste - and if you ever wonder what to buy me - look no further than it....

- That a trip home to Ireland and a walk by the sea sorts out any head...

- That letting go of hate makes you lighter than any diet...

- A spirilizer creates endless possibilities... as long as you like courgettes...

- Most folk who are wealthy are simply so because they never buy a round...

- That if you can't quite do it - FAKE it until you MAKE it...

- There are no friendlier folk on earth than the Irish - but sure, you knew that anyway...

- Series 2 of The Affair was even better than series 1

- Most of all listen to your gut - if it don't feel right, it aint.

So, I must away and start swallowing gin like prohibition starts at midnight - and all that is left to do is wish you all a wonderful, inspiring, challenging and enlightening 2016.

Keep her lit!

CM xx

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

New box

Every time in my life I've had to tick one of those damn boxes: are you '25-29' '30-34' '35-39' '40 - 44' etc I've just ticked and not really given it much thought. A friend on my 30th kindly pointed out I was 'in a new box' but it didn't phase me - age is just a number.

Really, in my case it has been. Often I find myself shocked to wake up and discover I am responsible for two other lives on this planet; I read my 17 year old diaries and feel exactly the same sentiments; I  go for prosecco with the 23 year old Uni graduate next door and think we have loads in common... And yet, in the past month I feel I have entered a new box. A new zone.

I can put it down to 2 things - the first being my upcoming hysterectomy. Yes, everyone else gets a new year hangover and I get a hysterectomy. Yay me! The hospital sent me the leaflets and on the cover are all these grey haired older ladies laughing - obviously just tickled pink at the thought of being womb-less, and I thought 'Christ, is that me now?' My Mother had the same op when I was 11 and I remember thinking it was for OLDER women - like REALLY old - and yet, she was younger than me when she had it. Similarly my Aunt had one aged 41. So here I am, in the era of untenable periods and gynaecological surgeries.

Obviously I'm thrilled about no longer having to suffer for 3 weeks of every month - but there is a part of me that mourns my fertility. That though I don't want any more children, I'm saddened that the child bearing years are over. That I'm done. There is something so finite about it all - that is hard to swallow. Most of all, the knowledge that that era has passed... and the new one makes me... old(er).

The other reason is a sadder one: in the past month I have had so many friends lose their parents or receive devastating news about their health. This Xmas, as I sat next to my Mother as she drove around Ireland, shopping for her perfect Xmas, I looked at her with new eyes - simply grateful to have her in my life. I'll confess I take my parents for granted, expect them always to be around - have only in the past few years put my childhood grievances to bed, and embraced this new dynamic.

Are we really here - at an age where our parents are not the robust over-bearing energetic folk that we once knew? Even, are we?

This Xmas, though it is far from my favourite holiday (too much stress and pressure and expectation for the good of anyone's health) I jumped head first into the celebration pool - made time for all my family, flew home to Ireland, though it was far from the easy option. Rather than eating out as I preferred, I respected that my Mum loves a home cooked turkey instead. It's time for me to be less selfish - to just accept my folks for who they are and relish what I have.

Because of the new box. The box that says I'm not 23 any more, and make up isn't going to hide the morning after the night before sins. That I no longer paint the town red, but cosy up inside friend's houses with all our children running feral way past bedtime. That conversations with my 17 year old niece suggest I am the older tragic adult who thinks they are still cool but is far removed from the word as is possible. That exercise isn't a choice any more, but a necessity. That a size 4/8 may no longer be within my grasp - and that is OK. For the first time in my life, I'm in a new box. But I'm here and that is all that matters.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Planets colliding

Rarely if ever do I find myself looking for astrological guidance - but today I googled Astrology zone just to see WTF is up with them there planets.

Why? Because since mid November things have been turbulent to say the least. There was the operation that never was - or rather it was an op, but just not the one I thought I was going to have. Followed by the news I have to have another, more serious one. NO SMILEY FACE HERE.

Then after that it all went a bit tits up really: people misconstruing things I've said and taking it all wrong; people I thought I knew well behaving in a wildly different manner; and all and sundry having horrifically bad news. Not a day has gone by in this past week where I have not heard a tragic story - it seems the world has gone a little cray cray.

Sadly I could find no rhyme nor reason to all this presumed celestial angst. Perhaps it is also the loom of bloody Xmas and all the exhausting expectation it demands - not to mention exhausting efforts. Every year I swear I will be on a plane for the next one - and at last in Dec 2016 I think it will be so - as we finally head to Aussie shores, for my Husband's return - a first in 15 years...

I don't know, I thought life got LESS complicated the older we get - not MORE. And yet, it seems as if so much more is at stake. Plus, in this digital ace - when we communicate by text, snapchat, email and Facebook - the nuances in our sentences, the tone - the meaning is all but lost. People read into our words as if we had never written them. The room for misinterpretation is enormous - and the result? EVEN more emails and texts and snapchat and Facebook conversations to resolve them. *Sighs and yearns for a simpler time*

I've even been misinterpreting things myself: on a night out in London last week, with a group of amazing drunkards women, after consuming a lot of fizz and jagarbombs and shots and dark and stormies - we all had to make like Cinders to jump into our waiting carriage minibus. I arrived at said bus and then remembered I had left my nice scarf behind in the club. So I dashed back and retrieved it (after almost coming to blows with a doorman who was about to refuse me entrance - see what I mean about everything being difficult??). then I came out - and... No bus. The had left without me. I paced along Camden, verging on tears, with no coat, no phone, no money - nothing - panicking at what to do. I searched along the street, screaming for my group - when about 15 minutes later - a LONG 15 minutes I add - one of them called to me. I jumped into the bus and raged at the crew - 'I am so fecked off with you lot! You left me! Deserted me! In Camden! How could you have???!!!  I then leant my head on the window and tried to keep awake on the journey home.

Once home, I dropped my spare jeans in the street (my daughter found them the next day) and stormed drunkenly into my house. Only later did the ladies tell me, the bus had never moved. I however had walked in try wrong direction and in my state had been unable to find them. Where they stayed, waiting patiently and wondering where the feck I had got to.


Planets, hurry up and speed up and stop this retrograde nonsense I tell you. Roll on 2016....