Friday, 17 July 2015

The new normal

Years ago I explained to a friend that my Husband and I didn't even shop for food together, due to the fact he worked crazy hours running bars and was never home. That if we ever got to do a dash round Sainsburies together, it was almost an exotic event - picking out some cheese. She looked at me wide eyed and said, 'Most people just take that for granted, but you don't even get to do the mundane stuff together.'

It was true. Every night, I ate alone, or caught up with friends. Sundays were sacred days - days when we actually spent some time together, usually watching a double movie bill or lazing with starbucks and papers. Festive events, birthdays, New Years Eves - he would work, helping others to celebrate and get hammered, while I made plans with our him. I never realised just how hard it is, to be married to someone who's night is your day and day is your night.

With children, the loneliness became more acute. I couldn't just pop out to see friends, catch a movie or sink cocktails with colleagues. For a long long time, life was difficult. I envied those who could make weekend plans; had a lump in my throat when I saw happy families sitting down to brunch, felt an all consuming rage towards my other half, for somehow deserting me. I had signed up to parenthood - but not as a single parent. I distinctly remember watching the clock on a Sunday, every second hating him that little bit more, as the small hand edged towards the one. Meanwhile, I'd been up with a toddler since 6 am. 7 hours later, living in a new town knowing no one, with a small child to entertain, I was fuming...

But life is a world away from that now. Everything has changed. Both for Husband and his job, and my work too. I don't think I have ever been in a happier place. Is a weird sentence to write - I feel some bizarre sense of guilt at admitting this. Lord knows why. I've worked bloody hard to be at the place I am now... Anyway, getting paid to write means I don't have as much time, or in fact inclination, to blog. I don't have gut churning angst to pour out, anger to spill, torment to share. I feel so lucky all the time. Thanks to my kids' godfather, my Husband has a whole new life - one in which he manages my son's under 9s cricket team, assists the football coach and even plays cricket himself. (Then hobbles around like an old man, virtually in need of a stick). He goes to the gym, he has time to watch endless Seinfeld re-runs, he makes sure I get time to write. Every chore around the house is spilt 50 - 50. (I still think laundry counts as much more than the bins being brought in - but hey, I won't nit pick).

FINALLY, I am getting the opportunities to have the career I have long wanted - perhaps even longer than I ever admitted to myself. I'll never feel like I'm there fully (9 years as a freelance presenter taught me the minute you rest on your laurels, see that rug you be walking on? It be pulled from under your feet...). But I am so grateful to have the chances. I'm hoping that it fits in with being a Mother. In having more time for my kids, they are so much happier and I feel so much less stressed. I think for many years I felt incredibly insecure in my abilities as a Mother - mainly because I worked so much, and never felt I was there enough. Plus, in lots of ways I didn't want to be - because I did struggle so much with the loneliness and relentlessness of it all.

But now, aged 9 and 4.5 - it is the best thing ever to hang out with them. Who is more excited about the Minion movie this weekend - them or me? Don't get me started on Inside Out - we are counting the days...

Yesterday as I walked to school with Sproglette, I realised that this is how other people must live: working, raising kids, doing the whole schebang together... But I never had that. Plus, in the last 4 years, due to loss of jobs, leaving jobs, having a second child, paying for child care etc etc - I've been asking the church mice for a loan. As my daughter begins full time school in September, we possibly, (hopefully?) are out of the woods.

Last weekend was the best I'd had this year. The sun shone, I took my kids to Greenwich and a friend's birthday party. I was already hungover from a Mums' drinks with a hilarious bunch of women who just happen to have kids the same class. (It was a balmy evening and we sat outside a bar sipping martinis and prosecco, until the bar literally ran out). Then on Sunday, warm rain descended and with soaking wet feet and a newly purchased umbrella I arrived to hear Judy Blume talk about her new book and all her old ones... The teenager inside me danced with joy to hear her talk about Forever. Judy made me not scared to lose my virginity, not afraid to worry about my skateboard boobs, and not ashamed to will my first period to make an appearance. (How in god's name did I ever WANT a period?). Anyway it was fab.

Now school is out this week for summer. I've scripts to write, articles to post, cases to pack. Team CM is on the move for most of August, bar a few days here and there. I'm taking Sproglet to see Jaws at an outdoor cinema. The last time I saw it on the big screen I was 8. It's his fav movie and he can't wait bless him. I can honestly say I'm pretty damn excited about summer and catching up with all those I love. It's always scary to admit any kind of happiness - it's like God is just waiting for that, to then throw a massive curveball your way. Is it just a British thing that we can't relax when things are going good, so worried that the bad is on it's way?

Well, who knows what is around the corner. So while I'm now in this new normal phase, somewhere it has taken me a LONG time to get to, I'll just be grateful for every moment. Happy summer y'all. I wish you nothing but sun, sand, sea, and simply as many rose wines as you can get down your necks.

See you on the other side.


Saturday, 13 June 2015

The Golden Years

My neighbours' daughter is back from Uni. She wears the sun kissed glow of freedom that comes when Uni ends and the rest of your life beckons. Having spent three years vaguely studying and hardcore partying (like all students) the time has come to depart the flatshare and venture into the big wide world.

How I envy her.

I've decided that, like Ethan Hawke's character states in the brilliant Before Midnight film, there are only a few years where you are genuinely 'free.' From about 18 until 30 or so, when children enter the equation. I'm calling these: The Golden Years.

Of course, they start of pretty grimly. No money, endless job interviews, endless not getting the job after all moments etc. Mind you at least the buggers today have email. Back in my day (Jaysus how old am I??) it was FAXING. At the local newsagents (I mean who could afford a fax?) paying an ungodly sum to send over a largely fake CV. Then, there was the horror of MISSING a potential job lead phone call - as mobiles, - WHAT mobiles - they didn't exist! So you sat staring at a machine all day, willing it to burst into life.

Stamps. Remember those things? The cost of bloody writing (hand written!!!) letters to potential employers - with your typed, photocopied (more money!) CV and then buying 50 million stamps and saying a silent prayer as you sent them. Then - nothing. No fucker in the world getting back to you. Crushing disappointment as you watched every other friend get a stable job, while you grappled with getting a career in telly. Them all going for fancy lunches while you continued folding jumpers at Gap and getting told off my your hitler-youth boss who complained your jeans wall wasn't 'exact' enough. Then finishing your shift and trekking across London to your 'home' which was crashing on the period stained sofa of a friend in St. Johns. Not St. Johns Wood. No, St. Johns, Lewisham. Eating stale reduced price sandwiches as they were the cheapest thing, or surviving on hummus and pitta bread because after you token rent and travel, Gap's pay didn't go too far...

So not so golden to start off with, I'll grant you. But then - you get the job!! My first full time job was as a reporter/news reader at L!VE tv. I honestly was paid £20K a year to read the news in front of a man (my mate Scott) in a 6 foot bunny costume. (Before you ask, I once I had to get in it myself. It stank).

My first day was out interviewing Marti (obviously with an 'i' he was a pop star back then) Pellow from Wet Wet Wet. I covered the news of an election date being set in 1997. I also produced a rather classy series of 'Topless Darts at the Circus.' I made 20 eps for 2K. It was the kind of place where in rain, we covered the cameras with black bin liners and every PR in London refused to let us into anything. I remember European Business News (who? Exactly - and they still got in)  giving us their passes to a Bond Premiere - so we took the flags off our mics and ran in. A woman strode towards me and I thought - this is it - we're getting slung out. She announced, 'You're first to interview Pierce Brosnan.' Hoo rah! Then she asked,  'How is my good friend John?' Obviously I knew no John. I smiled and lied my way through the entire night, expecting to be ejected at any time.  In my time at L!VE I interviewed everyone from Di Caprio to Kate Moss (she hated me) and watched a human autopsy, dressed a dwarf as a ringmaster and got him to chase women around a disused circus in Great Yarmouth (in November) attended Paris Fashion week and became a ghost hunter. (Yes I believe in them).

When I met with mates for cocktails, their jobs seemed dull in comparison - but they are the ones now with private health care and pensions and all that jazz and me? I have memories of getting drunk with Ollie Reed's best friends and chasing George Clooney across Leicester Square demanding an interview. (He refused. Mind you I wouldn't have wanted to talk about THAT Batman movie either).

Anyway, I digress. Once I'd got that job - which was well paid at the time - off I went head first into the golden years of bad dates, good cocktails and most of my money spunked on having a roaringly good time in bars in Soho. I lived in St. Johns Wood (hurrah - the real one at last!) and West Hampstead with a fab bunch of girls. 2 of them were Tv bookers, so there was rarely an evening were we weren't off to some album launch, gig, festival, etc. Meanwhile the rest of my evenings were spent working - blagging and lying my way into every event and hounding celebs like my life depended on it. How did I have the energy? Most were wankers. There was something wonderful about being despised though. It made every snatched interview or grabbed shots feel like a mini victory.

I left L!VE. Began 'freelancing' as an associate producer. Did everything from a doc on Ollie Reed, to showbiz reporting for The Big Breakfast. Until I got a break and became a kids' Tv presenter in 1999. I don't think I actually ever grew up. My first job began on March 7th 1997. I had my first child in June 2006. I had 9 GOLDEN years. Sure they were fraught with periods of unemployment and many many broke days (I remember us all going for dinner in Camden and eating an apple, because I couldn't afford a meal - I did afford wine though so I had my priorities right). I remember the fear of a mate leaving a flatshare - who would replace her? I remember worrying over affording my £450 a month rent... I often wonder how I ever afforded to go out EVERY night and how I ever made it to work of a morning, when I was in the Met bar when the lights went on (school disco ending style) at 4am.  I remember having many's a broken heart over some idiot or other and being convinced I would marry a rock star and move to Miami.

I didn't obviously.

But I sure had a helluva lot of fun. But the more I think back, the less I envy the girl next door. Because all those years - in many ways - were my search to end up where I am now: having a permanent home, being in a relationship, having a family. And so I must finish this post - I've a shower to jump into and a movie to catch: a family outing to Jurassic World. The more I think about it, those golden years - they're actually a bit more silver. Or now, now is the platinum era for sure.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Nostalgia part 1.


Ahhh back in the day, I used to do some fun stuff on telly and the other week I found the DVD.  Christ, I got paid to act like an ejit.

Shame that isn't still the case... 

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Internal Debate

So here's the thing - do I move home?

As in, do we pack up lock stock and barrel and move to Northern Ireland - where we can have a sea view, be near family, neck some dark and stormies over good craic and have a 5 bedroomed house with huge garden for the price of our Victorian terrace here?

For so long I always said, 'Nah, we can't go - work keeps me in London' -when I presented, when I script edited. But I've long ago let my ambitions fly out of the window - I don't want things with a burning desire any more - I want the easy path. I don't want to fight and compete and network and all that bullshit. I just want to see a movie or two, hang out with friends, afford some dinners out.

Husband and I used to be all about the fine dining, the Michelin stars, the latest hip place. Now I think it's all such a load of wank. Husband, he who spent years in the food and drinks industry - hates the pomp and posture of half the new restaurants - he thinks they are all just carbon copies of all that has been before. I'm never gonna spunk £400 on a meal for 2 again - when I could put that towards something brilliant for my kids. Life is all about family now - not about being able to brag about getting into some 'exclusive' bar or restaurant, only to feel on edge the whole night, not sure if what you are wearing is right.

I'm over anything pretentious and anything shallow. I just want home comforts and sincere friends. Going home feels easy. There is nothing on earth like a stroll by the sea. The food in Belfast is hearty, healthy fare, the locals chatty, the atmosphere warm. I feel slightly out of place, having lived away from the Isle for so long - 24 years. But lately I have felt the pull, the lure of place.

I have family there - all my family pretty much. I've some good mates - not many - count 'em on one hand - but they are the kind I'd drop everything for. Instead of weekends like this one - where, save for maybe a saturday night dinner with mates - I am alone. There are no 'pop-ins' here. Sure we have friends - but only a handful I see regularly. Writing from home has made me more insular than ever, and I'm not ashamed to admit it has made me lonely at times. I have maybe 3 women (in my small town) who ask me for a coffee out of everyone here I know - and whilst my daughter's class is filled with fab Mums, I don't know any of them in a close way.

I kind of feel like a fish out of water here. I like company, I like chat, I like being surrounded by people and warmth. Here it feels it has to be planned, it has to be carved out in stone weeks before as everyone is so busy busy busy. I find some folk odd - they are friendly one day, cool the next. I miss the Irish way of chatting to everyone - even a lamppost in the hope that it will talk back to you.

We write lists, Husband and I, about what to do. Where to go. Houses in my neck of the woods cost ££££ - I don't have a spare £1.2 million for the next size up of my house. I love my little town: the canal, the sweeping fields where my son plays cricket, the cobbled streets and quirky houses. But I'm also slightly bored of it. I love London being a mere 40 mins away - but I don't visit it very often. Nothing on earth beats Soho in the summer - the sweaty heady potential of the gridded streets, filled with those spilling out of bars. But Fealty's with it's turf underfoot during race week, the Empire with it's gallery, the Merchant hotel with it's architecture - can all give it a run for it's money.

I'm not really sure about lots of things at the mo. I've changed, I know that. I used to care about being at the right places, star bothering, glam nights - all in the 90s and early 2000s. Then I married, then I had kids. My life is a world away from those days. So now it's time to think about the great school my kids could go to (my old alma mater), the big house we could buy, the family support we could have. Yes, it will rain. Daily. Yes I will often wonder why I moved somewhere that I was once  desperate to escape from. But my heart is telling me one thing, my head another. I see how happy my son is at his school - yet I also know that in 2 years he will leave it.

Maybe we will all be leaving here, who knows?

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Letting go.

Today my heart feels a little heavy, my step a little weary, my head a bit bleurgh.

All because I sent my 8 3/4 year old off to an evacuee centre, with his little number round his neck and a black cap on his head. He'll be staying there for 2 nights, learning all about what evacuated kids went through during world war 2. He was beyond excited: patiently listening as I packed and re-packed his case, with a tick list ready for him to adhere to when he packs to return; studying his costume in the mirror and fixing his cap at a jaunty angle. Me - not so much. I mean of course I'm delighted that he's heading off on a school trip with all his buddies, and how much he'll learn and grow from the experience - it is just - he has never left me before. EVER. I keep walking past his room and it all feels so quiet. Sproglette is in mourning - but has managed to quell her tears with haribo. What a trooper.

All of a sudden - on the cusp of 9 - he is growing away from me: he now walks to school with his friends, he changes on his own at swimming and no longer shares baths with his sister - preferring to shower alone. It's as it should be - and yet, I feel so redundant at times. Like, I've waited for this moment (to not have to suffer stinky swimming pool changing rooms for example) and yet now that it is here - I am a bit bereft. Bizarre isn't it? Tis so true that they grow up so friction' quickly. I can understand completely why folk squeeze in baby no 3 (NOT that I have any plans in that direction).

We trundled into the school hall and found out which group he was in. We wandered over to... a group of about 10 girls. His face fell. All around the room his buddies stood in other groups. Luckily he had one chum in his group - which seemed ok, until this kid was sent to another one! Sproglet's face fell and I asked the teacher if he had any more boys in my son's group. He read the list and Sproglet looked so gutted - none were his friends. Now he has many buddies - yesterday he wrote a list of 14 he plans to invite to his party - but not one was on the list. His face told the story. I asked if he disappointed and he replied quietly, 'very.' He stood silently and stared ahead. I sighed, my own stomach in knots - not wishing to leave him with his little face so downbeat.  It reminded me of the years at school in sort when I was picked last for the team, or left out of a girlie secret - it is just DEVASTATING. Suddenly the teacher said, "Sproglet why don't you join Mrs XYZ's group over there," and pointed towards a group of boys in the corner. Sproglet BEAMED and ran towards 6 of his friends. I thanked the teacher (I could have hugged him right there and then like a complete weirdo) - I was just so so glad that he had clocked the situation. The next minute Sproglet was in group photos and laughing away, so kissing him goodbye was easy.

For him.

I dashed away from the school, tears in my eyes and a massive lump in my throat. I miss hearing his voice, hearing Sproglette's laughter as he messes about sending her into fits of giggles. He'll be back on Friday, exhausted, with a (no doubt) half packed case filled with dirty clothes. He'll have stories galore and will ask once again to watch Dad's army. But that night, when I get my hug, I'll be squeezing more tightly than usual. While I still can...

Thursday, 2 April 2015

The end of CMWD?

I started this blog many moons ago, mainly because I felt so disenchanted with Motherhood; with the idea I had been sold about what the whole experience would be. I felt lonely, isolated, trapped and insecure and by writing about it, I hoped somehow to connect with others in a similar predicament.

Over the years I've struggled with how to combine motherhood and work; I had never in my wildest dreams imagined how hard a task this would be. My original career as a presenter just wasn't working with a baby's routine and I was somewhat lost about what to do next... As someone who had been incredibly ambitious all her life, to suddenly not be so, left me all at sea.

My marriage suffered many low points with my Husband's demanding job: for 5 plus years I felt like a single parent, without the kudos and occasional free weekend...  I lost my job due to company policy to not let a script editor stay on after 2 years and got pregnant the same week I left. I tried to find solutions to my never ending work/motherhood problem but the solutions didn't pay very well - and most of my income was taken by childcare costs.

I bemoaned the difficulties of Motherhood, not least the loss of self. It felt like a job I had no apparent skills to do - the needs of children forever shifting, my abilities never quite enough. This blog became my place of respite, where I could vent un-judged. Where I could be honest and still find support. Most of all, it was somewhere I could go to write - something I loved to do.

At the weekend I realised I've kind of come full circle. I am now in love with Motherhood in a way I perhaps never was. My kids are at gorgeous ages: almost 9 and 4. Leaving my job last year to be around for them more, was one of the best things I have ever done. In having more time for them, I became less stressed - and all of a sudden things became so much easier. Sure, I have been broke most of this year - as I plough on towards new horizons, but I am much much happier. On Sunday the gales blew, and we ordered Thai food. Sitting around the table we played the post-it game where we all tried to guess the name on our foreheads. I felt content. Grateful for all I have. It has taken me a long time to get here.

I don't have buckets of angst any more. I'm not bitter about earning so little but working so hard. I'm no longer enraged that I never had maternity pay, that my career in TV proved so difficult and relentless. I don't feel other Mothers are better than me, or have some insider secrets. I'm no longer lonely. I've reached a point where I'm beyond proud of my kids - not through my parenting - but just the little people that they are. The way they view the world. The joy they see in it.

Husband, thanks to his best friend - has a whole new way of living and is an equal parent in every way. He has been more supportive to me in the past year than I could have asked of anyone. He believes in me, even when I don't believe in myself.

Finally, I think, I'm at a point where all my questions of old: 'how do I combine work and motherhood successfully?' have been answered. I'm not there just yet, but almost.

I feel I don't want to share my life any more. It isn't interesting to anyone but me. It is school runs, and football matches, plaiting hair and washing swim kits. It is parent evenings and movie dates. It is dinner with friends and Husband cooking up a storm for neighbours (beef wellington no less). It is red wine and Bloodline. It is sun on my face as I run along our pretty canal and wind in my hair at the side of a football pitch. It is deeply mundane. It is perfect. I've learnt that no-one is the perfect mother - that no marriage is forever secure. That everyone worries about money and career and making ends meet. That we all fear failure, that we all have moments of doubt. I just shared mine with everyone on here, that was all.

It's time for me to take a break from here. Not that I won't be back. I just don't know when. Writing as my job now has meant less need to jot it all down here. Maybe I'll buy a diary instead. But I do want to thank all those over the years who have told me how much they love my blog: that it made them laugh, or cry, or both. For the lovely writers who have told me 'You can write' - a huge compliment from such talented folk. I have felt so much love and kindness when people bothered to comment in my moments of dark despair. I honestly think this blog is the reason my marriage is still together and my head is vaguely sane.

I will always be the crummy mummy who drinks. I just don't feel so crummy any more.

Love always,

CM xxx

Saturday, 14 March 2015

How little we need

Today I had had enough. I couldn't open my daughter's wardrobe due the two enormous overflowing toy filled bags that were in front of it. I sighed. Time for the spring clean. 4 hours later, we can open said door AND my son can now see his wardrobe floor. Sproglette and I have tussled over every toy and managed to fill 2 bags to go to charidee and 2 for the bin. I have yet to tackle my son's toys - that will maybe be the summer clean.

Plus today I read of Daisy Goodwin's house burning down and how she literally had nothing bar the clothes she stood up in, and whatever she had in her handbag. I felt an odd emotion creeping over me - one of almost... envy. Now that is frankly bizarre I know. But apart from my old diaries, some old photos and the baby gros I brought my kids home in, my mothers day cards and er... a toy hippo I have had since I was 7, I don't have much sentimentality. I HATE clutter. I have few clothes, one make up bag, a drawer of products and no fancy jewellery save for my engagement ring.

It made me realise how little I value material possessions. Sure I love a good moisturiser and a lovely White Company throw, but ultimately I don't really give a flying fuck about having swanky stuff and endless ornaments and tat. I read about a guy who had just one of everything in his house: one plate one cup, one pair of jeans, one chair, etc and it sounded insane - and blissful. Goodwin commented that wearing the same clothes for 3 weeks had made life simpler - a uniform of sorts. Obviously it is hideous having to be uprooted and all the horror of dealing with insurance companies and memories of things once loved now gone - but oddly it has made her happier, and I understand why.

We clutter our lives with objects and gadgets and trinkets that we think will make us happy. For a brief spell they do. The delight when getting a new pair of shoes is a good few weeks of joy. But ultimately it is just 'stuff' that gathers on shelves and in wardrobes and often we forget we even have it.

I am regular de-junker. Sometimes I think, in not regularly buying our kids toys - unless it is special treat - have we denied them? I have walked into homes where the kids have more toys than you could shake a stick at. But my kids never want for anything - and I'm more about 'lets go to the park/eat ice cream, go swimming,' than 'lets play with a lot of plastic.' Once they have outgrown a toy I am unsentimental (bar Woody and Buzz who I love madly) about lobbing them into the charity box.

There are drawers in my house that are filled with sellotape and odd stuff from Xmas crackers and batteries and playing cards. I often de-junk these but somehow the junk creeps back. For some reason, I hate stuff, I love clean lines, empty spaces and very little on display. I feel secure when everything is tidy and in it's place. To say I have OCD wouldn't be a lie.

Husband has even less possessions. He barely buys clothes and has never really cared about having anything apart from SKY tv and an iPad. He often says that all he needs to be happy are us and a good bottle of wine, a movie trip occasionally and maybe a book or two.

It is funny the older I get, the less I need, the less I want. The fancy shoes of my 20s lie at the back of my wardrobe gathering dust - holding too many memories to throw out, but yet I will never wear them again. They are from a different life: one that involved heels and lipgloss and 7 outfits to present all the week's continuity in. But my life now is a school run; hunched over a Mac feverishly typing. If I go out for drinks, I'm as likely to be in trainers/converse to comfortably run for the last train home. Slinky dresses and pencil skirts with towering heels are just not in my world.

Is clearing them out confirming what I know - that life has moved on and will never be that again? Do I hold onto the one pair of Manolos, the beautiful Westwood skirt, because although I know they won't be worn again, I'm somehow still unable to give that girl up?

Anyway, nothing has made me happier this weekend in my de-cluttering. (Apart from my daughter telling me she loved me more than all the dolphins and fish in the world - and er... werewolves and dogs). Plus I'm off to see It Follows - a horror movie date with husband is one of my favourite things - and yes, you've guessed it - I won't be wearing heels.