Saturday, 21 March 2009


It is official. My husband has gone to another planet and an alien has replaced him. This alien unloads dishwashers and washing machines and strips bedding and hangs out washing and clears cupboards and gives me AFFECTION!!! I love this alien. He gets up early and helps with Sproglet and is taking me to The Boxwood Cafe tomorrow for a fancy schmancy meal with champagne and everything because it is Mutha's Day. He is full of energy, has bought an exercise bike and goes to the gym twice a day. He has a glint in his eye and a spring in his step. He makes plans. He writes lists. He buys me my favourite Kiehls hair conditioner as a treat. He reminds me of a man I dated 7 years ago (who I went on to marry...). Whatever planet he is from - I don't care. I want him to remain earth bound. I am showing him our strange earthing customs and he is acclimatising nicely. One small step for marriagekind...

Unasked for life

The only two certain things in life are they say, death and taxes. Yet we never expect either. Why would we, in the prime of our lives? Natatsha Richardson's untimely death this week shocked everyone. Not because we knew her, or felt like we did (she wasn't tabloid fodder ground into our consiousness) but simply because she was so young, and her death so unnecessary. One minute she was laughing and enjoying skiing in powdery snow and the next - a tumble that she brushed off, which would prove fatal.

How her family must have wished to rewind those few minutes - tiny moments that have now changed their lives forever. It made me sad - perhaps because it reminded me of dear friends of mine, who lost their eldest daughter in a few small cruel moments. She was driving on a wet road - the car skidded on mud - and she was gone. Just like that. One minute Rachel was a 29 year old woman (friend, sister, daughter, girlfriend, colleague) on her way to work and then she had left us. Her younger sister is one of my best friends - we have known each other since we were 15. Another schoolmate Caroline(my flatmate of the time) rang me to break the news. It was April. The 27th. A Thursday. She could hardly speak she was so numb. I remember my head was covered in foils and I quietly asked my hairdresser to hurry along - I needed to leave quickly. I rang another friend who asked me to repeat myself - she couldn't, or wouldn't accpet the news. Young people don't just die. It isn't right - it can't be, can it?

We all gathered in the bar Caroline ran. We didn't know what to say or do - we just had to gather. Being together somehow felt right. We booked flights home. Cancelled everything. Nothing mattered but being there for our friend Hannah and her family. We knew there was nothing we could do to help - but we wanted to with every bone in our bodies. By being there we were doing something.

I remember hiring a car - getting lost on route and unable to find the reverse gear I wept and screamed until a man approached from a farmhouse and showed me how easy it was. He looked at me like I was mad. I arrived at the house and it felt like a party was in full flow. This was a house that had known great parties. You never crossed the threshold without tasting incredible food or having your glass refilled time and again. This house to me was a source of comfort for teenage angst. Where I felt welcomed and wanted. The whole family made you feel that way. So it wasn't surprising that the house was full. People spilled out of rooms and whisky and wine flowed and Rachel's Mother Anne - a woman I love dearly - kept saying how ironic it was - as Rachel would have loved such a gathering. Behind the warmth and love that flowed through that house was a deep, deep sadness. A feeling that things would never be the same within the four walls again.

I stayed the night - and the next morning we sat on Rachel's parent's bed. Anne had found her daughter's baby weighing book and showed it to us. I wasn't a Mother then - but now I realise that no matter the age, your child is always your baby in your heart. The time I spent with the family over the next few days is too private for this humble blog - because my memories are so acute, but they are not really mine to share. Those 5 days in Ireland stay with me -it felt like we were all in a bubble; somewhat surreal, almost like a lost world we visited. In true Irish fashion there were many laughs, long hugs, too much wine and tears that just kept rolling. Just when... well not 'normality' set in - but a moment where we would be washing dishes or attending to the mundane tasks of living, a fresh visitor would arrive and in their touching grief we would reminded that this was not a gathering for a festivity. Just as joy unites us - so does grief.

I remember looking at Rachel's photo on the wall and wishing with all my heart that she was still there. I didn't know her very well - she was always funny and direct and super smart whenever I had met her - but I knew the loved ones she left behind - and it broke my heart (it still does) to see them in pain.

I look at the papers and see photos of a haunted looking Liam Neeson and wish the press would just bugger off and leave him alone. This is a private time for him and his family. Their loss is not for the world to encroach upon. From what I know of death and grief - which is little, I know that the mourning never stops. There is never an Xmas or a birthday that is ever the same again. How can it be with someone dear missing? Life forces you to continue living - but as Rachel's father Ashley always says 'in this new and unasked for life.'

We celebrate weddings and christenings and birthdays and every milestone in life - and yet we seem so unequipped to deal with death. When the young are lost in their prime everything feels so unjust and wrong. We lose our faith in the long life we all expect to have. I have no idea how to end this post. Everything feels so inadequate. So I'll go back to my roots and raise a glass to you Rachel, wherever you may be now. Gone, but never forgotten.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Dad rules / Bored of the Burbs

I love 'Dad Rules' - a column written by Andrew Glover in The Sunday Times Style magazine - about the perils of Fatherhood. Apart from this small joy and the culture magazine - I wouldn't buy the Times at all. Well actually I don't buy it - Husband does. I'm more an Observer kinda gal. Anyhow - this week he talks about annoying social situations. No. 4 on his list is when at dinner everyone is discussing some juicy gossip and the person next to him says 'Did you have a nice half term?' He writes 'Suddenly you are trapped in a Mont-Saint-Michel situation - the tide's coming in and you're cut off from the mainland. Solution - shout "Make for the beach!" They'll think you're insane but they won't trouble you again.'

Love it. Especially as my life in Suburbia feels like this moment groundhog day stylee. When I lived in the big smoke - I had lots of friends. I still do but they are all in said big smoke. I am stuck in lovely house, good schools, green fields, suburbia. Little villagy place I live in is quaint, pretty and at a push interesting enough. What isn't interesting enough - not by a long shot - are the folk that reside here. I haven't seen one person in their 30s in a pair of converse. A huh. Bad sign. When we moved here the NICE people we bought our house off (Julie and John. Had to be eh?) invited us to a house warming at the mansion they just purchased. I went with Sproglet and it was pure horror. All the women wore pressed white linen trousers, jangly jewellery and and too much lipstick. They all had husbands called 'Andrew' who were architects and bankers and yawn yawn. It was terrifying. I aged 20 years the moment I walked through the door. They stared at me as I drank a bottle of Corona - I was the only woman drinking beer. I left hurriedly.

Since then - apart from one normal woman whose child goes to Sproglet's nursery - I have met only what I fear turning into most: women obsessed with home improvement, potty training and motherhood as a professional career move. Eek! In their company I want to skin up (haven't smoked a joint in many moons)talk about anal sex or drop my trousers and show my small star tattoo below my hip bone. I regress to teenage behaviour in a bid to distance myself from them. Either that or open a vein at the thought of spending my life with the stepford clan, as they try to out status one another.

I miss my normal muckers - women who admit their failings: feeding a bairn cough syrup to get a good night's sleep, drinking wine before bath time, sticking wee one in front of C Beebies to get ten mins to make dinner, or read a mag. Even better - women who don't even talk about Motherhood at all - ever!!! London suddenly seems so appealing - think I may have to do some lottery playing if I ever wanna get back there... But then, will I compromise Sproglet's schooling? The fresh air in his tiny lungs? If we lived in London would he be on crack by the time he is 10?

Things chez Crummymummy are looking up. Husband gets a degree warmer every day. I have been calm, supportive and somehow have managed to make my point. Husband in return has helped around the house - even clearing the cluttered cabinet in the dining room into some kind or order (a job I have put off for 8 months). This weekend we're taking Sproglet to the zoo and then will feed his small face with sushi. Think the latter is more for us than Sproglet, but anyway, it is a step forward. We aren't out of the woods yet but we are in a clearing... A suburban one sadly, but a clearing nonetheless.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

So where do we go from here??

I have discovered it is possible to feel lonely within a house even when your spouse and child are home. I have been living on a dusty shelf since I returned on Sunday from the safe haven of Ireland. My stay there was therapeutic on many levels: I felt loved and supported everywhere I turned and I didn't have to face daily rejection and the big cold shoulder. I knew that the peace would never last.

I got back to a reasonably chipper Husband. We ate family lunch together and he talked at length about his plans to get back to the gym. He used to be a gym bunny when he was back in Oz - lean, cut and snake hipped. His nights of working in bars have taken their toll - physically and mentally - and he wants to reshape himself. I applaud this - but Husband is an all or nothing person - so he now weighs all food, has hit the gym with brute force and has a meal plan more regimented than an Olympic athlete! I understand that this is good for him - will give him a clear head and help him feel better as a person - I just wonder where he will fit it all in, with his hectic work schedule - and what time will be left for me...

We bathed Sproglet, I unpacked, we read papers. An unremarkable Sunday. No kisses or affection - any attempts by me were rebuffed. I am still on a warning apparently - he wants to see that I have changed before the warm gates will open. My temper needs to be restrained, I need to address my anger issues and become 'a normal person' before we are back on an even keel. I get this - I really do. I have been a vicious venom-spitting monster of late - my stress oozing out of every pore and making me combust on a regular basis. To be fair to Husband he has borne the brunt of this for many a year. He has reached the end of his ability to accept this behaviour - he explained at last nights cosy Relate session with the ever patient Wendy - that I need to 'get help' or he will leave me.

Wendy bless her, gave me time to talk too. I whispered the sad tale of the last few weeks - revealing to her (and Husband) how my grand plans had somehow backfired and I ended up driving Husband completely away. I wept as I told of my confrontation call with my Mother prior to my trip home - how I finally admitted to her that I hated this new post-alcoholic woman - how then this hate segues into guilt for being so cruel to my own Mother; that I struggle with her Mothering experience now that I have my own to give. Having Sproglet has thrown my past squarely at my feet again - a mushy convoluted mess that I have to somehow sweep up and put back into boxes and make sense of. No mean feat.

Oh those good old demons of yesteryear kept rising up - the pathetic cliched soap opera style ones - you know, like I test and test until I drive the person away because I don't believe I am worth loving. All that hokey pseudo-psychologist stuff that makes me feel somehow even more pathetic. It is so galling to sit there and realise you are a complete fuck up - destined to ruin your marriage - with some sick prophesy you almost want to come right -see, I knew it wouldn't work!

It was one of those snotty wet tissued weepy outpouring evenings - Husband simmered coldly (yes it is possible to do both) next to me, immune to my wateriness. We left and struggled through a mundane Sainsburies shop. Usually post Relate, we make up in the cheese aisle, but tonight there was no laughter. We ambled through - both wounded - me, too terrified to speak for fear of setting a chain in motion that would propel him to leave me quicker. Him - struggling to maintain his distance.

We came home and drank wine. We even laughed as I watched the Oscars (I know, it was like ten years ago now - but just how toe curling was that 5 presenters giving the acting awards love in? How nervous did Jen look? How unfair is it that Sean Penn gets better looking every year and how much do I want Danny Boyle to be my new friend?) and I went to my lonely bed. No shared room until my big change!!

Sometimes when I make a joke or launch at him to steal affection in any small measure - he turns his head and I can see his grin as he tries to hide his love for me. I know it is there - lucking just underneath the surface - often almost spilling over in gestures or odd comments. Today as we bathed Sproglet (Husband is off work for 2 more days) I suddenly asked him to hug me. I felt tears threaten to fall and he saw my lip wobble. He hugged me and called me the name he uses for me in endearment. I felt momentarily exonerated. But I have to work harder to get there. I'm scared something in him has permanently broken. I'm scared I won't be the 'new me' and that a crack has started that cannot heal in our marriage. I take his curtailed behaviour on the chin - I know I deserve it - but I make sure I am no walkover - I challenge things I disagree with and make demands of him around the house with chores and Sproglet help. I'll work on me - but he has to work on his help in the home - because it was the stress of everything getting on top of me - that caused to me to lose the plot in the first place.

So next stop - therapy. Hell, an hour talking about ME ME ME a week - what's not to like?