Friday, 31 January 2014

Cut off point

Firstly, thank you to all who took the time to comment on my last post. I really felt so low and sad and at the end of my tether that I just could not see the pesky wood for the big fat old trees. In those moments, it is so hard to see your problem with any kind of perspective. You just see red mist and cold fear and huge mountains that are un-climbable. (is that a word? It is now).  I started this blog because I just found motherhood so hard and lonely at times and wondered why no fecker ever talked about it... so the fact that so many people still read it and were there to send advice support - means a lot. Plus, thank gawd other folk feel the same way.

I wasn't raised in a normal family - well, no family is normal - but you know, Mum, Dad, siblings, dog, the usual... My Mum left my Dad before she discovered she was pregnant with me and made the brave decision to have me on her own - even when he told her to abort me. So I grew up with my Mum and Grandmother until I was 11 and then we moved in with my Mum's new boyfriend. He is this man. We moved out again when I was almost 15...but I continued living with him at weekends... An odd arrangement, granted - but it worked for me. Anyway, the whole 2.4 thing - I have it now... but I didn't then. Sometimes I feel like whilst my Mum did her best, I don't think I have a template of how to do the whole family thing... Sometimes I struggle... It isn't normal for me. But I am damn sure it will be normal for my kids...

This week, I hung up on my Dad. I think it may be the last time we'll talk.

I should feel sad, but I just feel relieved... If he was my mate, I would have ditched him years ago, deleted his phone numbers and moved on. There is only so much disappointment one person can take.

To explain: I moved to the big smoke aged 18, to Uni. Escape! Since then (apart from a year travelling) I've lived in and around London. My Dad, he thinks it's 'too far' to travel to, from his home, just outside Belfast. That long exhausting, one hour flight. He's never seen my home, never stayed a night under my roof. I am 40. 22 years and he has never visited me.

I forgave it. Made my own excuses. When I lived in West Hampstead: flat is too small. When we moved out to the countryside: I'm not a grown up, he is set in his ways... I conveniently forgot about the football refereeing trips he went on, the buddy holidays he attended. The Xmases he never invited me to... The birthdays he forgot.

Then I had kids.

I think I still would have gone on, making up ways to justify his actions - except, he had married my step-mother when I was 14 and so became a step-father to her two daughters. They are 54 and 51 to my 40. The 54 year old has a millionaire partner and 2 sons ages 18 and 15. My Dad and Step mother had those boys to stay EVERY WEEKEND since they were toddlers. Every Sat night these kids had inner and bath time and then sleepovers at my Dad's - he lives 5 mins walk from their house. He even got BUNK BEDS to accommodate them. He talked endlessly to me about taking them to football games, school fairs (school fucking fairs!!!! He bloody well had to be DRAGGED to my parent/teacher evenings - didn't even go to my GRADUATION - and here he is going to school fairs?????). He coached their football team! He told me often how great it was, being a grandparent, with this misty eyed look, because he hadn't obviously done this before, the whole parenting lark. 
He was an absent, charismatic, charming, careless parent who tolerated me for a few hours on a Sunday at best.

I chose men just like him for a good 10 years. Then I woke up and thank god husband is NOTHING like him.

Anyway. This week - I was tired, still grumpy. Spent. On Monday he rang me to tell me that he was having some knee operation and said I sounded down. I explained that yeah, we have no help, no space, no escape and I'm leaving my job and it is all scary but we are positive and yadda yadda and then I said 'we aren't as lucky and G and P' (my step -sister and partner - the ones with the 2 boys - who could easily afford nannies etc but had my Dad and stepmother on tap).  I continued,  'We don't have the breaks you gave them... every weekend.' My Dad's reply? 'yeah... you chose to live over there.'

He makes it sound like we live in fucking Australia.

Then he said, as if to pour salt in my open wound, 'We had the kids to stay this weekend too... we still have them all the time.'

I lost it. 'We live 20 minutes from fucking Luton airport, which is an hour away from you. You know what? I don't give a shit about your fucking knee.' And I hung up.

For good.

A friend said I'd never forgive myself if he died. But is that a good enough reason to stay in touch with him? Just in case he carks it and I'm left with guilt?? I just cannot bear the man. Has he ever been to a birthday of my Sproglet's? (He is almost 8).  A football match? Taken 3 year old Sproglette to the park? Seen the pretty canal lined market town I live in?

NOPE. He is a selfish, petty immature bastard who gives me nothing - no time, no care, no attention, no.... love. But yet he expects me to care about his knee, his life, his holidays, his other family.

After all he has done to me, how much he has let me down and never measured up, I always forgave it. But I just cannot let it go where my kids are concerned. Did I mention that my other step-sister lived in London for about 4 years during which time she married - and how my Dad visited her?? She was here 4 years! Then divorced, without kids. He made time and got on that exhausting one hour flight for her - because my step-monster decreed it. But for me, for my kids? Nothing.

There comes a point in your life, when you realise you don't need anyone who doesn't enhance it. Life really is too short. Time too precious. So what that he is my Dad? Procreating doesn't make you a parent. Sticking around, being there for your kids, spending time with them - does.

And certainly he is no parent, or grandparent.

It is time to cut him off. I just can't be disappointed anymore.

Friday, 24 January 2014

I just can't do this any more....

I don't think I was meant to be a mother.

Tonight, I lost it. I dropped my basket. I just can't do this any more. I can't. I have failed where you all succeeded. I struggle, where to you, it comes naturally. I shouldn't have had kids.

I awoke at 5:30am today and just couldn't get back to sleep. Demons - that only whisper at night to scare us, to make our hearts race, our heads pound, began their chant. I've forced myself out of my job in 2 weeks - because my time there is done, I feel done. I want to make my writing a way to earn my keep and yet... where will that happen? The demons shout... YOU WILL FAIL. They remind me that some people I know want me to fail. They make me question my choices, my friendships, my life... How will the bills get paid? They holler. And... the loneliness. They remind me that I am not one to be alone for even a day. It fries my head. Plus, I will have more time with my children - which should bring me joy, but just feels me with dread. Don't kid yourself they taunt.

Tonight I lost it. I screamed at my son. He shook in terror. He shouted back and my temper raged. I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and didn't see me any more. Just some exhausted, frustrated, lost, angry - so angry - woman who at 40 should fucking know better. Should BE better.

But I am not. I am shattered. My day time job is relentless - brilliant, fun, filled with amazing people - inspiring folk - but it saps the energy right out of you. Then I come home, do bath and bed and homework and laundry and tidy up and school prep and read a script and write a Babble article and and and... Is there time for me? Maybe to watch even an hour of shit TV? Read a book?

Weekends we spend entertaining kids, yet when I grew up my Mum left me every single one as she raced off to her tennis club... I watched black and white movies on a flickering tv with my Granny as her old buddies who smelt of piss and cats came for tea. Maybe that is what gave me my love of films? When I watch a film even now, I prefer to do it alone... Back then, I made up my own stories - so much so that the kids that wandered down my lane on route to the huge park at the top of my street, would stop by gate and sing 'tell us a story...' An only child - who hated to be alone. My other favourite game was to make up problems for 'Cathy and Claire' in Jackie magazine and then answer them. I could answer every problem under the sun... except of course my own...

Saturdays and Sundays are frantic as we prepare for the week and do food shops and all the mundane bollocks that comes with life - and there are no grandparents to say 'hey, have an hour off - have a coffee, read a paper, be YOU.'

It gets to you. No it doesn't. It gets to me. Kids were meant to be raised by a tribe - not two fucking stressed out parents doing full time jobs in wet weather indoors... I can't do this any more.

What do I miss? I miss head space, and Soho and being a Samaritan and lie ins and reading papers and spontaneous decisions and time to write and chatting to friends for an hour on the phone and kissing my husband over cocktails and London and most of all I miss not feeling guilty all the time because I just don't find parenthood as joyful as all you lot do.

I find it tedious and tiring and endless and thankless. I love my children, I kiss their heads and cheeks and toes and love every inch of them but I never for a second imagined I would be this spent.

My son is such a sweet sensitive boy and yet there I was - being awful to him - being the scary shouty mother that my mother was to me - that I SWORE to Christ I would never be. Awful. I'm so ashamed. Then I went to him in his bed and cuddled him and kissed his soft hair and told him I loved him and cried for being so angry and tired and horrible.

Now I am here. Typing. Weeping. Sorry. I didn't know who else to tell... You can't really ring friends sobbing, saying 'I'm a shit parent.'

I'm leaving my job because I want to be a better parent and a less exhausted stressed out version of myself and yet I am scared of what is next and how it will all pan out. I am fucking feeling that fear and doing it anyway. I wonder if you're there Keenie Beanie and Daycare Lady and Serena from Italy and JKelso Farrell and The Girl who and Chaos and all my old readers, the fab 8 who told me my truck load of chicken would arrive, in one of my dark hours may years ago. Did I lose you along the way?

It's funny because I feel I lost myself too.


Monday, 20 January 2014

Wolf of Wall Street, 12 years a Slave and American Hustle.

You can see why DiCaprio would have jumped at the chance to play Jordan Belfort, in Scorsese's latest offering. Rumour has it that Leo found Belfort's book and talked ole buddy Marty into making it. Just imagine the rip-roaring, heart-attack inducing joy he must have had going 'method' on this one....

In short it is a 3 hour drugs and fuck fest. If Belfort can't snort it or screw it, then unless it is green, he has no interest in it. This man makes a puddle look deep. He begins the film supping water at lunch, agreeing to jerk off as many times as his coke-addicted hairprayed boss tells him to and ends it... well, not a million miles away from here... Maybe this is the point - and I have wildly missed it. The point being Belfort doesn't need to grow or learn or change. Fine - but without the above, why are we watching exactly?

DiCaprio acts his expensive loafers off, and yet, we don't give a toss about him. Henry Hill he aint. No matter how much he bawls and brays, he lacks the charm, the charisma, the vulnerability of Henry... or any of his relationships. The POV shots that illustrated Henry's ascent into the bosom of his mafia family here are used to show Belfort's ascent into a coke-addled, hooker sprawling jet plane, depositing him and his mates in the most soulless of all places - Vegas.

Watching The Wolf on Wall Street you feel like you have ingested several lines of marching powder - racing you through shag after shag, deal after deal, bump after bump. The frenetic pace momentarily makes you forget that there is NO story. No obstacles, no jeopardy, no journey, no resolution. Just one man on a mission because... nope, I don't even know why money is all that mattered to this hollow man.

Occasionally there are brilliant flashes of humour - watching Belfort crawl on his stomach to his car after he has necked a handful of lemon Quaaludes is hysterical - but it isn't enough to warrant giving up 3 hours of your life to view. Everyone around Belfort is as fake and as smooth as a hooker's tits: his buddies, his stunning wife, his lawyers, his reflection. The thought as I exited the cinema: not, what a film! I must tell everyone to see it. Rather, shit, I need a bikini wax.

Marty, you are better than this....


The joy in a Steve McQueen film is also a paradox: so harrowing you cannot look, so mesmerising you cannot tear your eyes away. What other director can make you shift so uncomfortably in your seat, as your eyes flicker upwards, hungry for more?

12 Years a Slave has been accused of showing nothing new, and yet, name me another film that captures the horrors of slavery so magnificently? Hollywood would rather focus on any other tragedy than awaken it's own demons - so it has taken a British director to remind the world of the slavery that existed in America (and still exists worldwide) in the 1800s.

The story is bleak: Soloman Northup, a free man - carpenter and musician, is tricked, kidnapped and sold into a life of slavery. The brutality and inhumanity of his captors is extraordinary - and yet this is just the beginning. To survive he must pretend he cannot read or write, accept his captivity and relinquish all thoughts of escape. Eventually he ends up working for Edwin Epps - a man whose cruelty knows no bounds. Michael Fassbender is chilling in this role. We cannot loathe his character more than he loathes himself - yet he is incapable of showing empathy of any kind.

No easy watch... this film sure is difficult to swallow. But amidst this despair, is unparalleled beauty - in the burning embers of a letter, the dip of a southern tree, in the stillness of a moment. McQueen bravely shows us a man being strung up and left to hang, as around him the world carries on... not just for a fleeting glance, but for a ridiculously tense, torturous minute. If there is any sense of what is right, it should be McQueen clutching a little gold man on March 2nd, but I fear the Academy will be too afraid to applaud such a challenging watch. Shame. (Which by the way, is another extraordinary McQueen film).


Perhaps I am alone in thinking Silver Linings Playbook was good, but a fraction off 'great.' That fraction for me, was down to the fact that Bradley Cooper's character had no turning point - he went from cray cray to non cray cray in about a day. But let's not pick hairs - it is a brilliant, poignant movie - a love story to rival that of Drive.

But, for the LOVE OF GOD, why so much Hustle love?????

No.1 It was an act too long - wrap it up at the party scene - you know what I'm sayin'.
No. 2. Jenn Lawrence (inevitable I'm sure) steals every scene she is in and shows up just how one note Amy Adams's performance is. Sorry, I love her and wish she had won an Oscar for Junebug, but this is NOT her finest hour.
No. 3 I got bored of her cleavage - I swear to god I did. Put them away love...
No. 4 The plot is bumbling - at best.
No. 5 It all gets so neatly sewn up in the end it feels massively contrived.
No. 6 Jeremy Renner is amazing, as is Christian Bale - but the story - forgeddaboutit.

Fun - sure. A great date movie - you betcha. But hang my Oscars on it and call it a classic - NEVER! It feels like a watered down Casino... Which brings me back to where I started... wishing for Scorsese at his best. (After Hours anyone?)

Still on my to watch list: Her, Dallas Buyer's Club and Nebraska. Oh and if you wanna have a gander at my Oscar predictions: fill yer boots here.

But, for the record, this is one of my fav times of year - when you have a list of movies you want to check out, when the multiplexes aren't filled with re-make crap and superhero bollox, when you sit in the darkness and emerge, a little different than when you went in. When a movie actually takes you somewhere...


Saturday, 11 January 2014

Sexy Back

What is sexy?

It is a question I pondered over the other week with some friends. Who is sexy? What does it mean to feel sexy? Is it at odds with feminism, to want to be sexy? What makes a person sexy? Is it in the eyes? The smile? The clothes? The attitude? Or all of the above? Are we at our sexiest in our youth; is it a word applicable to a woman over 35? Or a mother? Or is it a word for the young?

Feeling confident isn't the same as feeling sexy. they are not mutually exclusive either... A discussion at work about who or what is sexy provoked all kinds of blushes and stuttered conversation - not least because sexy is in the eye of the beholder - and what one person thinks is HOT another will find repulsive. I don't really know any women who deliberately try to be sexy - to dress provocatively, to hoist their cleavage to the masses - or raise their skirts to knicker grazing level. I find displays of overt 'sexiness' crass and obvious - on women and men. Women in a T-shirt and jeans look infinitely hotter than a woman squeezed into some binding dress threatening to cut off their circulation. Therefore, is sexiness in the person, rather than what they wear?

For the record, for me, the sexiest woman of all time:

The beauty, the tousled hair, the feline eyes, the perfect pout. Bardot never looks like she starves herself of all of life's joys: food, wine, sex, sunshine. Like Liz Taylor, she oozed glamour and yes, that word, sexiness, in her attitude, her walk, her voice. Even patting a dog she looks hot:

Is there a time in life where you discover your sexiness? Or embrace it? There seems a general consensus between women I know that this word, 'sexy' demeans them in some way - better to be thought of as brainy or funny, or beautiful. Perhaps because lads mags and bimbo filled reality shows have dumbed down the meaning of the word; made sexy something so blatant and in your face that it no longer has any appeal.

Men have told me they found their girlfriends and wives sexiest when the are wearing their old Xmas PJs and are curled up in bed with no make up and a book. My Husband hates women plastered in make-up, he likes a more natural look; elegance, or simplicity in what women wear.

Being no looker in my teens, the boys passed me by - in favour of my infinitely more glamorous best friend. I took a job glass collecting at a local tennis club, working to 2am at the late license discos. I vividly remember the night some men in their 20s tried to pull me onto the dancefloor. They put their numbers into my hands, curled their arms inappropriately around my waist, individually asked me on dates - all as they bought their girlfriends drinks. I was 16 and it was the first time anyone had ever found me attractive. I was stunned. I was used to taunts at school, abuse, being called a 'dog'and much worse. For a teenage virgin who had barely been kissed, it was utterly intoxicating.

Still I struggled with my looks, my confidence. I don't know if I ever really shook off the feeling of being 'not good enough' that those boys imprinted upon me. It meant the thought of feeling sexy was about as foreign to me in sunny Belfast as Thai food... I think my first love was the beginning of a change in how I viewed by body, myself. He cherished me in a way that made me I was worth being wanted. When he left for university, with it went my confidence, my newly discovered sense of self.

All through my 20s, in the vicious world of TV, I let myself be rejected for my looks. Let myself be passed over time and again for presenting jobs - being told 'But you aren't a model. More, you know,' Girl next door.' They stopped short of saying, 'you aren't sexy enough.' It was the 90s,and the boom of lads mags had begun - you couldn't move for wonderbras and women stripping to 'empower themselves.' I didn't fit the mould - nor did I really want to. Why have to strip to prove my worth? I struggled with it all - my boy/work rejection, my self esteem - my view of myself. Outwardly confident, inwardly convinced that no wonder the jobs passed me by - I just wasn't that attractive. Mind you, show me a woman alive who hasn't struggled with her looks? Even Kate Moss admitted hating her flat chest, replete with a mole on one breast. Where do we grow with this sense of what is beauty and what is not? What ideals do we think we should live up to?

I digress. This is about sexiness. Not beauty. Let's not confuse the two. The most beautiful women in the world can be sex-less. Do woman only really feel sexy when they enter womanhood - and when is that? I know one friend who said he found his wife at her sexiest, not on their wedding day - but when she was 8 months pregnant. I'm amazed - I felt at my LEAST sexy when I was waddling around with bump the size of Britain.

Maybe feeling sexy isn't anything to do with what we wear, or how we see ourselves, but who we are with? Do they make us feel that way about ourselves - in the way they see us, the way they look us in the eye? Is it in the our voice, our smile, our laugh? The way Julia Roberts was at her most sexy not striding around in PVC thigh high boots, but laughing loudly when a jewellery case clamps briefly on her fingers?

Another man told me once that the sexiest thing a woman has done for him is to go out for dinner and actually eat! Which proves really that sexiness means one thing to one person and another to another. It isn't something to fear, or to be ashamed of, or to even try and achieve: you are sexy if you feel it. It is probably that simple. The difficulty, in talking to female friends, comes with the 'feeling' it. Will a high heel do it? A breast job? A diet? There seems to be sense of striving for this elusive sexiness. Yet, rarely if ever have I known a man to chase it in the way women do.

The sexiest men to me are usually the funniest, the smartest, the ones that have great eyes or smile. It isn't about the rock hard abs and the dancing pecs. It starts with the brain - their smell, their wit.... Which is why as HOT as a man may be - without the above, there is no sexiness. Looks do not equate to sexiness...

I don't know if I've ever really got the bottom of what makes one person sexy and another not... What defines that word. Jennifer Aniston, (she who has been sexiest woman in the world) summed it up , 'Nobody thinks of themselves as sexy, really. some days you go 'I'm not going too bad today. but if you try to be sexy, you'll never be sexy.'

So know you know.