Monday, 31 August 2009


Over the past two weeks or so a cloud has descended. With it an invisible block has settled on my shoulders weighing a mere tonne. My head has felt woozy and unfocused - full of cotton wool. Melancholy has got me firmly in it's grip and nothing I do seems to loosen its stranglehold. I feel spent. No energy, little enthusiasm, a weird sense of numbness. This isn't depression. Depression charges over you - a thunderous wave dragging you under to the abyss where you remain, sinking lower and lower until you are lost in the eternal pit of despair. I'm not sinking. No, I'm afloat, but I'm treading water.

I thought it was PMT. Period came and went.

I thought it was the weather's subtle dip in temperature, the sure sign that summer is about to hit the highway and autumn is 'a knocking. Yet today the sun blazed - as if a Indian summer had overuled Autumn's arrival and still I remained in my emotional limbo.

Last week I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep - a mixed up mess of anxiety that gnawed away at me refusing to let me have a moment's peace. So I visited my acupuncturist on Saturday. Curled into Husband's waiting neck, bathed with Sproglet, ate chocolate, read great blogs, indulged in some West Wing whilst prone on the sofa - all big comfort providers. Still the lingering grip...

Today a friend who has known me many years said she had never seen me struggle so hard for so long. The solution to her was simple: work less hours or get more help. She is right. Along with some horrendous Protestant work ethic I have some inbuilt need to beat myself up at every opportunity if my life isn't straight out of a 'White Company' catalogue replete with Jamie Oliver culinary skills, a 2.4 angelic brood and a life that screams 'I did ok - honest!' at every turn. Every day my little voice begins its chant - starts with my morning shower - 'You could be thinner. What is all that cellulite - you could make a golf ball factory from your thighs!' 'You must hit the gym before your jeans button explodes and takes someone's eye out.'

Continues at work 'you could have done that better.' 'Why don't you remember who shagged who and when X character died and what story line you has changed etc' 'Everyone can see through the fact you can't do your job!' Over lunch 'You failed today. So much for healthy eating - you gave up the minute the birthday cake went round and you insisted on getting the corner knowing it was the biggest slice.' 'YOU WILL NEVER AGAIN BE THIN - LOSER!!!'

'You are a bad Mother. You let Sproglet watch TV when you picked him up. You should be playing games and being entertaining and whisking up some cupcakes and organic broccoli soup even though you are shattered. Oh, did you forget the milk? Again...'

After dinner 'You should be cleaning out the fridge/washing clothes/ironing so your son doesn't look like he crawled out of the bog when he hits nursery/making a healthy lunch/cleaning/hoovering/dusting/did I say cleaning?' 'You forgot so and so's birthday. You suck as a friend.' 'You didn't call your step-sister back. You are lazy. And that book aint gonna write itself... how can you watch TV when there is so much to do. To do. Did you hear me? THERE IS SO MUCH TO DO.'

Yes I am mad. I never stop. I never just let it the fuck go and relaxxxxx. I wind myself into a tightly coiled spring that is ready to pop at any given moment. I need a break - but more than that - I need to rethink my whole juggling act. I'm dealing with too much and I'm slowly sinking under - there is no respite. But there is an end in sight. My job ending may well be a great thing. Come spring I don't want to work full time. I don't want to bust a gut trying to be all things to all people. I don't want to end up this tired and drained and grey. The winds of change are coming.

I'm ready. I'm not scared any more. I'm relieved.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Too much information

You know how most folk have an internal dial that alerts them to the moment when they should wrap it up and keep the rest of their story to themselves? Yeah, mine is missing.

Today we got talking at work about hair removal. What a pain in the ass it quite literally is. All that shaving followed by itching, agonising waxing followed by rashes or dying - which just makes your mo look Swedish in origin but by no means hides it's thick dusky beauty.

I piped up with my Brazilian story. The one where the woman took me to new heights of pain and then announced that we were barely a quarter of the way through (and I am fair haired!!). The one where she showed me her fabulous creativity by holding up a mirror for me to admire my 'last plucked turkey in Tescos' crossed with little pre-pubescent girl look that I hadn't exactly been striving for. The one where I got many white headed spots sprouting pesky in-growing hairs in places I could barely reach as a reward for my troubles. Now at this point I should have stopped. But oh no, I was only warming up. I opened a dialogue about why we need pubic hair to funnel/direct urine as we wee. That with the absence of such hair we frankly piss like watering cans.

Cue much shuffling of scripts and frantic typing on computers - time for old CrummyMummy to wrap up the chat! But I blustered on almost demonstrating how pubic hair plays such an important role in a woman's life. I was just about to launch into my 'I would rather have a smear test than have a Brazilian again' chat when finally the dial clicked in and a warning light buzzed on in my brain. I retreated to my desk.

In disgust with a writer I once worked with I announced that I would rather have a smear than work with him again - 'point me to the stirrups' was my defining argument on that one - although I perhaps should have stopped short of clambering on a desk and portraying such a stance.

Often I will share my news with the office - my latest being that Sproglet has begun FINALLY to crap in his pot. Whilst a friend's daughter had brilliantly got into Oxford University that day - I was equally proud that my child had finally mastered where to poo - and felt the need to share my joy.

Marriage meltdowns, dreaming of obscenely young men with 9 inch tongues who breathe through their ears, hairy nipples, mucal plugs falling out, tampons getting lost internally, sex in phoneboxes - oh the range of my inappropriate conversations is vast.

Did I tell you the time that I.... maybe not. I'll save it for later, shall I?

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Guilty Pleasures

I try to walk past but I can't. My head whirls round with the speed and agility of the girl in the exorcist movie. I tiptoe across the supermarket aisle, hopeful that I won't be seen. My eyes flick over the titles, drinking in the celeb updates! Hot new fashion! The tips to make you cellulite free in 5 mins! The scandal! The NOOZE! Before I know it my addiction has me fully in it's grasp and I am hungrily, nay, ravenously drinking in all the frothy information dressed up as journalism.

Trash mags. I know they are wrong: fawning over stick thin fame chasing B listers who haven't a brain cell to rub between them; endlessly trying to pit women against women (who wore it best? Who is TOO FAT! - next week - TOO THIN!); focusing on inane subjects such as the merry-go-round of incestuous celebrity love lives and generally making us all feel that bit worse about ourselves, not to mention a bit well... dirty. Like we need a good hour in the tub to scrub off all that glee at clocking that the rich and famous still have problems, just like us civilians.

I pour over photos debating have they/have they not had surgery? Try to quell my house envy when so and so invites us to their palatial 3rd holiday home in Miami. I lust after shoes that I would never have the opportunity to wear in a million years but oh my god - I want them! I read about special machines that would turn me into 'an A lister body' if I re-mortgaged my house and could then afford two treatments on them. Time flies by and the check out assistant begins to cough to let me know that I had better stop fingering the goods and cough up some dough.

I can't buy them though - that would mean admitting to reading them. Something I am not prepared to do. I stuff them back on the shelf and walk quickly away from the scene of my crime. If anyone asks - trash mags, you read 'em?


Saturday, 8 August 2009

The G fairy

Is it wrong to eat strawberry cream tarts for breakfast? No I didn't think so. Friends came over for dinner last night and by the time I had bathed and bedded Sproglet and rustled up some culinary joy, we kind of forgot about dessert. It might also have had something to do with the many jugs of gin, elderflower cordial and apple juice - try it, trust me - that I kept pouring...

Sproglet couldn't believe his luck at the booty I brought forth from the fridge. I debated if we really should be chowing down on such fare, for all of about two seconds and then we tucked in. Sproglet had already had proper breakfast I might add, should you think I'm pumping my kid with fat and sugar without some proper sustenance - mind you most cereals are filled with just that - so the innocent little tart probably is healthier...

The crummy mummy tribe are on the move today - we're off to Southampton to visit an old friend of mine, over from Canada. I call her G Fairy - as in 'the good fairy.' Because she is, or was, so damn good. She has a sing song voice, a sunny disposition, unrivalled politeness and is the kind of person who buys an Xmas tree for her room in a grubby shared house.

One particular Xmas when we shared a flat, I came home slaughtered, lips stained black with a violent strain of red wine, to discover G Fairy having a merry little Xmas sing song as she carefully wrapped her carefully chosen gifts under said tree. Never again have I seen such a visual that captured the holiday spirit. She belongs in the Waltons or something... Anyway, I picked up my unwrapped (largely unbought) gifts and demanded she wrap them too. Out of fear or simply to humour me, she did. I might add my current fling at the time, well, he kind of looked like the devil. All dark pointed eyebrows, thin face and black hollow eyes. Yes, a real stunner. Let's make it clear that I was with him for his mind; he was a hugely talented TV producer with a hugely expensive cocaine habit - and obviously best avoided. (I was young and mending a broken heart at the time so he seemed the perfect tonic. His scary eybrows and all). G Fairy glanced over my shoulder at the antithesis of everything she was - glaring at her and she squeaked in fear.

From that moment on I became the Bad Fairy. She calls me B. Funny thing is, I bought a flat, met Husband a few years later, married - with G taking the pics at my wedding - had a baby - all very G stuff. She however, followed an unsuitable boy to Canada, settled there, ditched unsuitable boy, hooked up with another one and then ditched him and settled for... well, his boss. Not so G. She now has her own baby with said boss man.

Somewhere along the line we worked out that we swapped places - although I would wager that deep deep down she was never that G that I was never as B as she thought I was.

Her Dad has a sprawling house, with a pool and... a pub in his back garden. A small one, but a pub none the less. Husband likes it very much. They never call time at the bar. Never have to throw out a rowdy rugby bunch or wait for an hour to get a drink. Brilliant.I'm going to meet her son for the first time. No doubt we will drink to his health.

Maybe we'll revert to our old roles... we'll see.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Brandy baskets

My Mother came to visit for a week.

A mundane, simple statement that provokes all kinds of turmoil for me. To start with my Mother and I are opposites in every way. I am my Father, at least in personality. They separated while she was pregnant with me and then conducted a torturous courtship where he managed to have not one, but two simultaneous affairs. She couldn't live with him, couldn't live without him. They were due to remarry - she even bought the dress. But the affairs came to light and my Sunday visits to Daddy became gin fuelled violent rows, home in time for Sunday lunch with Granny.

I had dinner with Husband last night. 8 years together. He looked dashing in a suit and ordered a memorable bottle of red, while listening to me babble incessantly about my story course for the entire meal, willing him to understand the intricacies of story structure that I barely grasped myself. He mentioned my Mother. They discussed me, as always. My Mother said to him, 'She has forgiven her Father and yet she won't forgive me. But I try the hardest, I make all the effort to make it up to her.'

I couldn't breathe. It was the moment in a movie where time stops. Where the world slows down and the only thing you can hear is the dim squawking around you and you try and breathe.

She is an alcoholic. A recovering alcoholic. Her alcoholism is possibly the most interesting thing about her. If she wasn't my Mother, would I want to spend time with her?

She comes to stay and we begin the dance. She unpacks calling it 'her room' and I let it slide. The words 'spare room' linger in my head but I let it go. She has just arrived. Then the expectation. That I will cook, that I will attend to her. That somehow I have to be grateful, that I have to show how happy I am to see her. She showers Sproglet in love and declares him 'Granny's boy' and my hackles rise. How easy it is to be the brilliant grandparent and to forget how fucking woeful one was as a parent. But if we can just convince all around us that we can do this Grandparenting bit right - then no-one will cast up, no-one will remember.

I remember. And I can't let go. I try, but I can't. I spent my life with her walking on eggshells, trying to work out what I had done wrong, what had triggered a mood, what had sparked her venom. Now she has changed, I know it, we all know it. We've turned tables. She no longer has the power to make my life miserable - instead I watch as she squirms and tries and flounders and I let her walk on the eggshells. I don't consciously do this - I don't wake up wanting to make it difficult for her. But my default setting is adjusted to 'defend' and so every comment she makes I am there with my shield - ready to pounce - sure that she is judging every tiny thing I do.

The worst of all to criticise my Mothering. What would she know about that? Then I'll come home to find every piece of clothing washed and ironed to perfection. The fridge to be filled and Sproglet bathed and ready for bed. I'll feel all these stirrings of gratuity and then she'll tell me what she did, she'll expect gratitude and so I'll withhold it - like some stupid playground game, some power play. It is pathetic, but i don't know what else to do. Who else to be around her.

She'll offer to pay for new blinds for our bedroom and I will take the money. I'll accept it without thought. I'll never think about how hard she worked or what she went through to earn that money - I'll just be selfish and think how great the blinds will look. Fucking white blinds. She has a bad knee and will mention it in between hobbling and instead of having sympathy for her I will be mildly irritated as if on some dark level she is faking it - or even darker, that her fucking sore knee will mean I am duty bound to show sympathy for her - when my heart is stone.

Then she'll order dessert in a restaurant and the ice cream will come in a dish, in a brandy snap. And I'll eat the same dessert and I'll say how brandy snaps remind me of my childhood and she'll tell me how I used to suck all the cream out of them and then ask for more and in that moment I will love her so much and so strongly that my heart will be eaten up with guilt for being the bitch that I have been all week. And yet I can't forget, I can't move on.

Then we'll drive to the airport, not before she has pressed an envelope filled with money for the blinds in my hand and I will thank her and feel bad, but still take it - not knowing really what to say. Maybe I think she will always owe me. At the airport she will kiss Sproglet and he will ask where Granny is going and she will begin to cry and then hobble on her stick to the airport door, scared to look back. And I will drive off and feel relieved and come home and look at that sad little envelope with the fucking blinds money and I will weep.

Because I don't know why I can't love her, I don't know why I can't move on. Why I am always on edge when she is here and when she tells me how much Sproglet loves her and talks about it - it only serves to irritate me further. Husband says I need to give her a break - and I want to. I really want to.

Her last Husband walked out of her life almost 2 years ago. I had liked him the first time I met him in '96. Another man she'd brought into my life, made me love and then he'd gone. He hasn't spoken to me since they day he left. She mentioned this week she had seen him and shown him a photo of Sproglet. He asked if I was disappointed in him - she told him I was. I told her that I never want her to mention him to me again.

She stopped drinking 10 years ago this September. After a usual drunken evening I had taken her aside, confident that I would bear no consequence as she lived (lives) in Ireland and I was about to step on a plane back to London. It was so wonderful to be able to be honest with her and know that I could walk away. She attended her first AA meeting that night. She never looked back.

But I look back. I remember. Even without the drinking, the fear, the loneliness, my Mother and I were never friends. We were and are poles apart. We talk about trivia but the things that inspire me most in life (bar Sproglet) - a film, and article in a Sunday paper, a book - she would have never seen, never read. I often hate myself for wishing she was a different person - a person I had something in common with. For finding kinship with my Aunt (her Sister)and for enjoying her company more.

When I think of every Xmas, being duty bound to have this woman in my life it fills me with anger and resentment. Why should I? Why I am beholden to her? I will feel so conflicted and unresolved about her that it churns up the teenager in me and it is like I never left Belfast, that I never escaped.

My childhood was long ago and I don't want to be that sad bastard that can't let go, that can't just grow the fuck up - and yet here I am. I love her because she is my Mother and yet it isn't that simple. It is all immersed in politics and recriminations and revenge and I am not even aware that I am doing it.

She has gone and I realise that in the 7 days she was here I never once hugged her. That makes me sad.