Saturday, 31 January 2015

Happiness is a double stuff Oreo

HOO RAH January is almost done.

Also, as I type I am alone in the house. This is a rare occurrence. Husband has taken sprogs to the movies and I find myself  wondering WTF to do. It is actually quite unnerving to have no blogs needing written, no script that needs a polish, no studying of telly to do. I'm not good at the old relaxing malarky. So here I am, having a blog moment.

Life is pretty bloody good at the moment which is slightly unnerving. We're not good with happiness are we? Much more comfortable having a moan, needing change, wishing for more. So when life is just swell, there is a sense of foreboding doom that waits for us over the horizon, just ready to pounce when at our most comfortable.

Ever since Husband changed his job, my life did a full 360. (Or does that mean I am right back where I started? Should it be 180? Maths was never my strong point). Basically, having spent years as a single parent while Husband ran bars until the wee hours of the morning, he is now around. A lot. It means he can take Sproglette swimming (I abhor council swimming pools, the smelly changing rooms, the sauna like heat at the side of the pool and the freezing water that awaits), make dinner (he is by far the better cook), do bath time and share the chores of raising a family. It means also, that finally, we all eat together as a family every evening.  We chew the fat, Sroglette turns her nose up at the 6 hour slow cooked Jamie Oliver winter chilli that Husband slaved over ("I like the chilli, just not the bits in it") and we always ask, 'what was the favourite part of your day?' I began this tradition, because I wanted to focus on the good and now Sproglette insists we ask it no matter what. Sometimes, after a day of writing and chores it is hard to pick out a resounding highlight, but I've persevered...

These meal times make me happier than I think I have ever been. Tis odd that such a small thing has such an impact on my life - but it does. We finally feel like a family - and the kids are such gorgeous ages (8.5 and 4) that the discussion is never dull. (Plus it takes Sproglette about 5 hours to eat 3 freakin' peas so we are at that table for a loooong time...).

Sproglette is full of nursery stories, 'Ella pooed on the floor and so and so had to have time out...' (she is such a monitor it is incredible) and Sproglet wants football results and how chuffed he is to have got 'pen license.' Usual, mundane stuff - that I love. Sometimes I find myself thinking, 'it doesn't get better than this.' Both kids snuggle under a soft wool blanket to watch a movie or Sproglet's fav Modern Family. They still let me stroke their hair and kiss the backs of their necks. This won't last. Soon they will be sulking in their rooms only gracing us with their presence to ask for food or money or a lift to some godawful club.

Soon they won't care that I make the best hot chocolate in the world, or want to break open a packet of Oreo double stuff (try them) with me. They won't get excited to have cake on a Friday, or run to the park and feed the ducks on a summers day. They won't want to watch Nemo - again. Or even Jaws. I'll be embarrassing and uncool and annoying and it is the moment I dread the most. At the moment I can convince them that the most prosaic things are magical - soon my powers will cease.

We crave the moments when they are asleep to finally have peace, then we wish they were awake and bouncing around. Like today, I'd have given my eyeballs to have a few hours to myself. Now I'm here alone and the house feels quiet - too quiet. The snow falls and the fire crackles and I miss those little nightmares.

Tonight is Star Wars monopoly, home made banana chocolate cake (divine and I don't even like bananas), The Voice (who will turn.. dun dun DUN) and the beginning of Spiral. So all that is left to do is start thinking about what the best part of my day has been...

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Letting go of the burden of hate

January has been FULL ON.

Normally it's a slow old month, crawling to the finish line, filled with failed resolutions and empty bank accounts. But this January has been busy busy busy and has zipped past. Not though, without the odd bump.

For several months I've had a health worry - one that I put down to all manner of things, but eventually realised something was wrong. So my GP referred me to a consultant and I've got to have a small operation in mid Feb. Nothing to worry about, which is wonderful - but for a couple of weeks when I hadn't had my diagnosis, I was frantic. I kept thinking that life has been so damn great, that something was gonna come a cropper... I worried that just as everything might fall into place, the one thing I need the most: my health, would fail me. It puts everything in perspective, when you are scared.

In the midst of all this I met up with a bunch of old schoolmates. Most of whom I see anyway - they are still a big part of my life - but a few I hadn't seen in 20 odd years. One girl J, was understandably nervous about seeing a gang of 15 people she hadn't set eyes on for two decades, so we met before the actual meet.

It transpired that J reads my blog, so knew about my life. J mentioned she had just resumed contact with a schoolmate of ours, whose wife used to be a close friend of mine, but cut me off several years back. To my horror, even though this ex-friend had never ever had the courage or courtesy to tell me the reasons why she terminated our friendship - J knew it all! Brilliant! So I was sitting there, looking at a lovely woman who hasn't seen me in 23 years (but looks exactly as she did all those years ago) who has heard all this poison about me. My head was spinning.

Thankfully J knows me of old, so wasn't in any way judging me. She knows that I try to have a good heart and am (hopefully) a good person, so I didn't need to defend myself to her. She said to remember that ex-friend of mine was filled with grief at the time this all happened, having tragically lost a baby. 'Grief causes people to react in all kinds of strange ways,' J wisely said.

At first I was livid. Ready to fire off some email of rage - how dare someone slander me so badly! Then I thought on what J said. That grief does strange things to people. I've never lost a child, can't imagine how horrific and sad that must be... You can't know what someone is going through unless you have walked in their shoes, but that is no excuse.

In this case the ex-friend took as a slight that I called my daughter 'Riley' - a name I had held for years since I learned it was Elvis's Granddaughter.  (Not a massive Elvis fan - just really liked the name, also because it usually is a boys'). My Husband, an Aussie, nicknamed her 'Roo' when he saw her in a baby Bjorn one day. This was apparently hurtful due to the name of the child she lost. Did I have a clue about this, or even think that my Husband's innocent nickname would be such a bone of contention? Nope. No idea. Who thinks this way - that you name a child to slight someone else??? Only those who think the world begins and ends with them. There again, grief does strange things to people...

Instead of being annoyed at something that to me, had been so twisted, I just felt sad. Sad that communications get so broken down. Sad that people can join dots that are not even there, to come up with a sum that makes me the bad guy. Then I thought some more: Maybe I was the bad guy - in not even realising I was being him. But how can we realise we are doing something wrong if NO ONE TELLS US?

It all comes down to one word: value. If we value someone, and they hurt us - unwittingly (as in my case - I'd never wittingly hurt a soul) or wittingly - shouldn't we tell them? A friend a while back called me on something I did without really thinking it through and we talked it over, over coffee. At the end, she had explained the reasons why she had been disappointed. I explained why I did what I did and was utterly apologetic that I had upset her in any way. We moved on. Air cleared. She valued me enough to tell me I had upset her.

It is hard of course, to tell people when they upset us, disappoint us, let us down. Perhaps we think they should know what they've done? But people aren't telepathic. They often walk around having no clue, while we seethe. But if we want them in our lives, then isn't it better to say our beef - give them a chance to explain, or apologise?

If we don't, it is that we didn't want them in our lives to begin with.

I know this, because this month I also got to tell someone why they had upset me: that every time I see them they are abusive in some way, or confrontational - so I'd rather just keep my distance. No anger, no issue, no dislike, just - I don't want to hang out with you. They wondered why I had waited almost 2 years to tell them. Well, I hadn't seen them in nearly two years - so that's a giveaway in itself  - but also, I prefer to say things face to face and hadn't had that chance. I was happy to explain how I felt. I'm always one for getting things on the table.

We can walk around bitter about perceived slights, angry at deep hurts and painful neglects, but it us who carry this heavy baggage of anger, resentment or hate. Isn't it better to let it go? Unburden ourselves, or make peace with it?

For a long time I felt rejected by this ex-friend and it was hard to emotionally let it go. I pride myself on my friendships - my friends are my family - so losing one was devastating. More so than any of the past romantic relationships I had that went by the way side. Whilst I never want her back in my life - how could I trust her again? - I do forgive her. Because carrying hurt and sadness - that aint my bag. I'm a cheery person who wants a life filled with positivity and honesty. (I sound like a nutter don't I?).

Sorry to quote from Frozen (Christ, I've been to so many Frozen parties with Sproglette recently if I never hear that song again I won't be upset) but shouldn't we all just 'let it go?' Forgive even if we can't forget? Elle MacPhearson once said at parties she breathes in love and breathes out her fear. Forgive that friend that kissed your boyfriend, the neighbour who never gave back your scales, the Father who missed your graduation, the husband that stayed out until 7am on a school night. Even if you can't do it to their faces, do it inside YOURSELF. Take a load off. You might not mend bridges, you might not resolve old wars, but you sure as hell will find peace.


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Four Weddings and a Funeral

My grandmother was born the same year the Titanic ship sank - 1912. She was born in the only house she ever lived in. There she stayed through her childhood, marriage, widowhood. One icy night in early December 1998 she slipped walking across the yard of the house and lay there all night, frozen, until a neighbour saw her light on and rescued her. The night spent facing the elements gave her pneumonia, which eventually a week later, killed her. She'd already survived cancer that year, but it had returned with a vengeance. I like to think that her house and that fall somehow saved her from a much worse death. It had looked after her all her life... and kept her safe until her last breath.

She was eldest of 7 surviving children; 2 more had died: Nancy aged 4 had been killed by a car, the other a stillborn baby. When my Grandmother was 18 her own mother died, leaving her to mother 6 children - the youngest Edna was only 4. My Grandmother was so busy raising her siblings she never got around to marrying until she was in her early 30s - in that era she was practically seen as an old maid.

My Mother was her firstborn, then she had another daughter. By then her siblings had all left home, bar Edna - her closest sister, who came home, only to discover she had cancer. My Grandmother cared for her until she passed. By then, my Mother had divorced my father, so I lived there too. I have vague memories of bringing Edna icy drinks to help with the pain.

My Grandmother's hands were the oldest looking part of her: never having owned a washing machine she scrubbed everything by hand. We had no central heating; daily she built a roaring fire. At night, for supper she'd let me toast marshmallows and nothing on earth has ever tasted so gooey and sweet. Her talent for baking was extraordinary. One anorexic friend resisted all food, bar my Grandmother's famous shortbread. She came from a era of giving and supporting your neighbour, so she would mind a neighbour's child (refusing to accept any payment) until the single Mum returned home from work. She would help neighbours by paying the milkman, fishmonger and coal man if they were out. She would feed their pets when they went on holidays - open their curtains, water their plants. When new people moved onto our windy little lane she would appear with apple pies, biscuits and buns to welcome them. If a neighbour was ill she would make her healing chicken soup and carry it up the lane to them, a teatowel around the bowl to keep it warm.

Every day she would walk to the local shops - a journey that should take 5 minutes at most. But she chatted to everyone: the butcher, the newsagent, the pharmacist, the greengrocer, the neighbours etc and it took her the best part of two hours. She also visited an old lady who was immobile - brought her a daily paper and made her tea. She kept her company every day until she died. She never asked for anything, never cared for material possessions. She was all about giving to others, making time for people and treating a neighbour as you would want to be treated yourself. Looking back, she was a hero in every sense of the word. I wish I'd told her that; but she wouldn't have believed me.

A regular church goer, she would bake for Soldiers Sunday - the first sunday of every month. As I tried to sneak a jam tart, or pinch a warm german biscuit she would slap my hand away. Her Husband had died when my Mum was 21, my aunt 18. She broke the news to them as they lay in bed - refusing to cry. "Why would I be sad when I have two wonderful daughters," she said as her children wept.

She loved Tweed talc, refused perfumes and always had a great make-up line where her foundation finished at the edge of her neck. She had a set of pearls she kept for special occasions. She never wanted designer goods or fancy meals. She had simple tastes, and would have hated anyone 'wasting' their money on her.

I lived with her until I was 11, then my Mum moved in with her boyfriend. With my drama teacher I wept, worried my Grandmother would be lonely without us. I missed her beyond words. Her hairnets falling across her brow, her laugh, her soft worn hands, the smell of her baking, her brisk hugs, the way she cried 'yo' when we drove over bumps on the road on the way to relatives in the tiny seaside town of Donaghadee.

She died on Christmas Eve's eve 1998. It was the year she had fought cancer and won. She'd watched my Mother re-marry - one of four weddings I attended that year. We arrived at the hospital - a nurse had been calling us for an hour, but pre-mobiles, hadn't got through on the landline. The stone cold corridors were eerily silent, the lights dimmed. We arrived to be told that she had gone. I saw her - but it wasn't her - turned on my heel and fled.

Her funeral was on Boxing Day. The storms gathered and the rain fell. I stood shivering in the church, wondering if I would ever feel any warmth in bones again. She was 86. Last night as I drove home a song came on the radio that I had played over and over the Xmas of '98: GooGoo Dolls - Iris. It always makes me think of her. The tears fell down my face as I missed her so acutely - wishing with all my heart she had met my beautiful children, that I could reach out and hold her hand, that she would laugh me with one last time.

They don't make them like my Granny anymore. Her era has gone: where the old guard women of the street welcomed in the newly weds and skilled them in baking, in starching white linen, in needlework. There wasn't a stain on earth that she couldn't get rid of, or a baking recipe that defied her.

My Grandmother was a truly selfless person - she had more qualities in her little finger than I have ever possessed. I will never stop missing you Annie. You and your shortbread.


Sunday, 11 January 2015

Foxcatcher and Birdman

A few years ago a friend went to see the film The Social Network. It had been my favourite film of that year but she admitted that she was 'livid' with herself for not enjoying it. I never really understood her reasoning until now: I wanted to love Foxcatcher and was annoyed as hell that I didn't fall in love with it.

So why not?

It is an unsettling and compelling film, where Steve Carrell gives a career defining performance as billionaire John Du Pont who wishes to be a champion but is a mere collector of champions instead - gathering other peoples' trophies and displaying them as if they were his own. Du Pont hires Olympic gold medal winning wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) to join his Foxcatcher team and live in his compound. From the very beginning his creepy offer would send anyone running for the hills, but Schultz, a lonely man who appears to live only to grapple with other men, it seems like the offer of a lifetime.

At first everything is hunky dory in the Pennsylvanian fort: Mark keen to impress, Du Pont desperate to be needed. But slowly their friendship begins to unravel, as does Mark whereupon Du Pont drafts in Mark's brother Dave - another Olympic gold medalist - to join the gang.

In this hollow tale, Mark Ruffalo gives an extraordinary performance as Dave - a flash of colour on an otherwise grey palette. The scene where he struggles to explain on camera that Du Pont is his 'mentor' is one of the best.  Dave engages us, we care about him and his cute family and relish the fact he stands up to Du Pont, protecting his younger sibling.

The problem with this wrestling film is that in spite of all that rolling around in bare skin, we never really get under it. Du Pont - a man child whose mother clearly preferred her horses - is completely flat, bar his spectacular nose. What motivates the tragedy at the end of the film? His unquenched thirst for his wrestlers? If the man had only come out, would tragedy have been averted? I left the cinema scratching my head. Foxcatcher isn't a bad film, it just is incredibly s-l-o-w. That combined with the sparse script that heavily relies on subtext (usually no bad thing - here just makes the film feel 'empty') and a lead that we don't really care about adds up to a film that is watchable but not memorable.

Similarly Birdman walks a similar path. It is a film where art imitates life and Micheal Keaton - best known for his role in the 80s Burton Batman flicks, is an ex-movie star Birdman who is trying to resuscitate his career by staging a Broadway play. For me, any scene not involving his mixed up, sexed up daughter/assistant played by a brilliant Emma Stone was simply not worth watching. The ending was predictable; the whimsy not whimsical enough, the special powers revealed to be real (I think?) which instead of adding to the story merely detracted from it.

Keaton is magical - playing essentially a more wired version of himself - but the one-take structure is wearing and whilst the script is sharp and occasionally funny, I left the theatre feeling ambivalent about the whole thing. Almost as if everyone who wants to appear clever will clap and praise a film who points a finger at the vacuousness of Hollywood, it's opening weekends, social media and how anyone can now be a celebrity. But we know all this - we don't need Keaton in his pants running through Times Square to tell us that...

Call me sentimental, but I want someone to champion, to love, to make me laugh and weep and run the gauntlet of all possible emotions through a 2 hour window. In short, I want HEART. In these two films I failed to find it. But that's fine - because tonight, fingers crossed, at the Globes, Boyhood should take the prize as it has it in spades...

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Time to say Goodbye....

So the first thing I am saying goodbye to in 2015 is.... foundation.

I have since about 1990, been a slave to the bottle (and the bleach - but that is something I aint ever throwing away). It is a surprising make-up bag accessory to be chucking out as I race towards 42 - but my skin has honestly never been better. Sure, I'm ageing, so it isn't like I have 20 year old supermodel dewy flawless California gurl skin - but with the help of two trusted buddies my skin is calmer than it has been in years. I have no need to slather on a load of pan stick to make my face look normal. A make-up artist at Mac once told me that where make-up is concerned, (and ageing) less is in fact more. She puts on eye make up, lipstick, mascara and all and then does the skin last - as she explained that the ore of your own skin that shines through, the younger you look. Heavy set make up is ageing and dulls the skin.

So who do I have to thank for my new make-up free status? My two new buddies: Nutribullet (over Xmas when I had to set him to one side as I ate Lindt chocolate for breakfast amongst other things like croissants my skin raged and gave me a spot the size of Ireland) and a Clarisonic. I know I need to get more water down my gullet (as my buddy who drinks water all the time has the best skin I know) and I should step away from Polenta cake - and leave the liquor alone - but all in all it has been a real surprise to see the difference these two products have made to my skin. I cannot recommend them highly enough. A Clarisonic is kind of a vibrator for your face, and leaves you feeling all sparkly and clean.

It is so time consuming, putting on slap - and yet in my case - so necessary. I don't want to terrify the Mums on the school run, or even my children. Make up is a saviour - giving me eyes when a night on the tiles has made them piss holes in the snow; hiding blemishes bigger than an egg; covering up eye bags that you could do your weekly shop in. So it is with trepidation that I set the main man - Mr hide behind me - aside. Who knows, by February I may be knee deep in Lancome - but for now, crows feet, eye bags, moles and pigment spots are all on show. Damn, it feels good.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Happy New Years!!!!

Yay for 2015. Cannot believe it has been 15 years since the Millennium evening... Cannot believe that I am 42 this year... Maybe I wasn't really born in '73 - I am certain they got the dates wrong, cos I feel about 18. Thank god for my Mum's xmas gift to me of a Clarisonic - next time you see me, I am bound to look 25.

I've eaten more cheese than a fromagerie stocks, sunk more prosecco than is humanly possibly and if I even look at a toblerone I feel ill. Thank god Xmas is over. It kind of unnerves me - all those days of the week that feel like a parade of Sundays. I like routine, the kids back in school and life returning to normal.

I'm excited about 2015. Why? Because reading back on this blog to last Jan, when I was filled with fear about walking away from my job in Feb - made me realise how far along the path I have come. Oh there is still more of the proverbial hill to climb - but that's the fun bit. Challenges are always the best bit, often more so than the reward.

So Broadchurch is back tomoz (YAY), a new series of True Detective begins filming with Taylor HOT Kitsch involved and there are all those fab movies coming out now in this gushing awards season. I've done Birdman - clever and funny and ODD. Didn't move me in any way. Cannot wait for Foxcatcher, Selma, Wild, Inherent Vice etc...

Time for the tree to come down, the twinkly lights to fade, the fridge to be emptied of evils. I wish you all a wonderful, kind, joyful 2015. I appreciate every one of you stopping by and checking in on me. I will still be a crummy mummy, but for Jan not one who drinks. In this new era of sobriety, I'm gonna remember to take a moment every day to be grateful for all I have. Without sounding like a new age freak who has smoked her bong too long, if life aint where you want it to be then start by changing one small thing today. Then do it again tomorrow. Keep going, one day at a time. If you have doubts, grab a pen and write down 10 things you are grateful are: your health, your brains, your coffee machine, the great book you got for Xmas, the hot shower you stood in too long this morning, for the job that pays the bills, for the mates who bought you dinner, for the partner who kisses you even when you have stinky morning breath. The more you appreciate, the more you seem to have...

I'm raising my cup of tea to you all. Cheers. HNY. x