Saturday, 31 August 2013

My Granny

I hesitated before writing this post.  My Granny was not involved in my divorce, nor my relationships since; she is not my child (obviously) and, very sadly, not part of my day-to-day life.

And yet she shaped me.

And although she has been dead for nearly two years now, I often think about her.  I miss her.

Granny wrote a book about her life when she was 70.  It's a big book.  But instead of regaling you with her entire life history, I just wanted to talk a little bit about why she was so special - and how her upbringing influenced her character.

As a Derbyshire farmer's daughter, she was not impressed with money, frills and spills (she said she thought my wedding was too posh - she'd rather have gone to the pub.  She was right.)  She 'spoke as she saw', but always with a sense of humour.  When I was at University and hadn't written for a while, she sent me a postcard.  It said, simply, "Have you died?  Love Granny xxx".  And if she didn't like the look of you in a photo, she would cut you out and request another.

And yet she wasn't someone who blarted at every opportunity; she was the most emotionally intelligent person I ever knew.  She would know exactly how you were feeling before you even realised yourself.

She stuck up for the underdog and, of her grandchildren, had a soft spot for the quietest, most shy.  Always encouraging them.  And although she had little money, she would scavenge the pound shops of Sheffield every Christmas and birthday to buy them little things that they would love.

She would talk openly about her illnesses, embarrassing or not, and wouldn't be afraid of discussing the amount of sex she had with Grandpa.  I would nod sagely and then run away, shaking.

Granny was a good Christian.  I'm sure that all Christians are good, but what I mean is, she was a true Christian, would help anyone, would talk to anyone, would trust everyone.  She was Christian Aid's regional secretary and quite often would take in African missionaries to their small semi in Sheffield.  I remember as a little girl being amazed by this 10 foot tall ebony man sitting at their dinner table on one visit.  I followed him around for the entire week; he seemed god-like to me, unearthly.

But here's the main thing.  Granny was a manic depressive; perhaps triggered by post-natal depression, perhaps by the birth of her stillborn daugther, certainly in her genes (as her mother was a depressive, too).  She had electric shock treatment ("best thing that ever happened to me") and was on lithium for most of her life.  She battled with demons and frequently told me that she had been a bad mother (my dad remembers nothing of the sort).

She was also left handed - forced to use her right; was offered a teaching assistant position at 14 but had to work on the farm; felt a poor second compared to her younger brother; suffered from migraines; lost her second son when he was just 40.

And I think that all these hardships contributed to the wonderful, caring, warm and big-hearted woman that she was.

She developed dementia in her last couple of years and became angry at times with her carers ("GET OFF, YOU BUGGER").  I felt ashamed because I didn't know how to calm her, soothe her.  Dementia is an awful disease and eventually, when she died, we were sad but relieved.

I love my Granny.  She was an inspiration to me and so many others.  I am left handed, I get migraines, and I try try try to be as wonderful as she was.  But I am nowhere near.   Not even close.

I wish she was still here.










* The word 'left' comes from the Anglo Saxon word 'lyft', meaning weak or broken.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Why This Summer has Been Totally Brilliant

I'll be honest.  I was worried about the school summer holidays.  Six and a bit weeks of anxious what-to-do-with-the-children.  First summer as a single parent.  Money tight.  Staycations planned, slotted in with work and therefore kids' clubs.  Fraught, I thought, caught short, chicken bought, starboard port (gone slightly mad now) with potential problems, anxieties, stress, boredom.

But, to my (and my kids') absolute bleedin' amazement, this summer has been the best we can remember.  And here's why.

1. The weather.  This, I admit, is total luck.  But by jimminy, it has been splendid.  A proper summer, with proper blue skies and burnt shoulders and ice creams and light breezes and barely any rain.  A summer when the waterproofs only came out once.  When hoodies were used but only for night time in the tent.  When almost every day was a beach or a pool day, clouds were light and fluffy but certainly not monstrous and threatening.  When cream teas were had outside, and only brought inside due to the threat of wasps.

When the lilo was actually used.  When we went in the sea without wet suits.

It was the 1970s all over again.

2. My Mum and Dad have been brilliant.  They have been divorced for 187 years, but this summer- by gum - they both came out of the woodwork and helped me out hugely.  Once a parent, always a parent, I guess.  My Dad took me and the boys away for a few days in Sidmouth (old people's-ville but we had a good time - see point 1).  Then we went to my Mum's, where I am writing this, whilst my Mum is playing Cribbage with the boys.  A bit of childcare makes the world go round.

3. My skin actually went a different colour without leaving the country.  My shoulders went properly brown, nut brown, with age spots too, and even my legs changed from blue to off-white.  Magic.  Quite literally, magic.

4.  My relationship with my boys has matured.  To be fair, when you spend a week stuffed into a tent together, and then a week all sleeping in the same small, sweaty hotel room, your relationship has to go somewhere.  Ours, luckily, didn't go down the toilet.  I'm not saying it was all smooth as..umm...a slide in a Mediterranean waterpark, but in general, we rubbed along, made each other laugh, and had fun.  There was an awful lot of boy laughter.  Which in turn, made me happy.

5. As well as child-centric holidays, I managed to get away for a few days with the boyf.  In his van.  This was generally lovely and recharging and sex-making and sticky, and just what the doctor ordered.

6.  And finally - I saw four shooting stars.  I have never seen a shooting star before, ever.  They were the most magnificent things I have ever seen - perhaps beaten only by the time when I walked into the men's changing room in the sports centre by mistake.

And so we've come to the end of the summer holidays and are frantically preparing for school.  I'm shattered,  the kids are shattered, my parents are shattered - but the summer has been all bonfires, marshmallows, swimming and family.  Cards have been played in the twilight, pockets filled with quartz-seamed pebbles and crabbing bait discussed with fervour.

It has been magical summer.

____________

Follow me on Twitter: @avapiaf1

Friday, 23 August 2013

My Tweens

I have to confess.  I didn't know what a 'tween' was until just now when I employed the services of Captain Google.  So now I realise that I have not one tween but two; I am in fact beset with them.

Here are some facts about my boy tweens:

1. One is 10, the other is 12.

2. They are very different.

3. My eldest tween causes me inexplicable angst; my youngest tween radiates happiness.  The result is that I have better times with my youngest.  This makes me feel Extremely Guilty.

4.  Eldest has been moody from the year dot.  He didn't smile 'til he was three.  When I took him out of the house as a baby, he would shut down and pretend to be asleep, rather than have to look anyone in the eye.  He is hard work, still.  Youngest is always cheery.  From a young age, he somehow fundamentally knew how to make people smile at him.  With him.  Lucky bugger.

5. Eldest has a hard time making friends.  I have tried helping him, but have failed.  Youngest has a wide network of friends.  He rubs this in the face of Eldest.  This does not help matters.

6. Eldest has headaches and it looks like he may be prone to depression - just like my family.  Youngest is fit and well.  Guilt.

7. Eldest needs me.  He needs me to be around.  I find it stifling.  My youngest is more independent, even at the tender age of 10.  He would live down the road with his mates if he could.  Playing loud music.  And cruising up and down on their bikes.  Nodding at girls.

Before I had kids, I thought that if I had two of the same sex, they'd be roughly similar.  I didn't factor in the bazookons of gene combinations that go into making up a tiny person; didn't realise that my tiny people would be turn out to be Mr Bean and Mr Darcy.

It is not, of course, as bad as all that.  Eldest tween is fabulously practical, can wield an axe, loves bushcraft, likes to be in charge, has a great sense of humour, and is widely academic; I am biased of course, but he is a wonderful mathematician, writes beautifully and his art is stunning (this from one who can draw a damn good stick man and not much else).  Youngest cannot keep up with that.

But academia is not everything.  Indeed, at this stage in life, it is not much at all.  I just want Eldest to be happy.  To be more confident, to have at least one good friend, to never feel afraid.  To enjoy school.  To be a bit naughty.  To not try so hard.

And so we go into another school year with Eldest worrying about friendships, added to which, puberty is knocking at his door.  I always tell him I love him.  Always hug him.  Am always there for him.

But I know that this is not enough.  It will not do.

I just don't know how else to make him happy.

________

Follow me on Twitter: @avapiaf1

Thursday, 22 August 2013

I'm an Introvert in Disguise

Imagine this: it's 6pm.  You're going to a party at 7.30pm.  The babysitter's due at 7.15pm.  You haven't been to a party in ages.  You're about to start to get ready.

How do you feel?  Excited?  

I would love to be one of those people who feel excited.  Who just want to get out there and see people and get squiffy and dance like an eejit and generally have a brilliant time.

In fact, I generally just feel a bit anxious.  Little bit nervous.  Little bit - oh god, I'm tired, and in fact, I'd much rather just watch telly or write a bit and then go to bed.  Can't I see these people one by one over the next few weeks?

I don't like noise.  I don't like crowds.  I hate making small talk.  In meetings at work, I get incredibly stressed when the conversation goes round and round and the same things are being said.  It's an effing waste of time and sodding exhausting.  Art galleries are fine if they're not busy (ie, crap) but if there are lots of people there (ie, if they're any good at all), I whizz round at top speed and learn and see nothing.  Just a fuzzy art blur.

I hate external business meetings where there's that mingling thing beforehand.  If I'm forced to go, I sit in the toilet for 20 minutes until the meeting starts.  At one awful event I was forced to talk to someone fairly important and all I could do was comment on his tie.  Bridget Jones comes to mind.

I know - I sound like a right old crabby hag.  I'm not, I promise.  Well, I am a bit.  But if we met I think you'd think I was ok.  I smile a lot.  I ask a lot of questions, generally to hide the fact that I have nothing to say about myself.  It's not that I don't like people - I just don't like them all together.  One by one, or in pairs even, is fine.  As long as they're quiet.  And move slowly.

I'm pinned as an extrovert by others, which is the weird thing.  It may be because, in a situation where I'm comfortable with everyone, I don't mind being a bit odd.  Speaking out of turn.  Piping up.  Being silly.  But put me in a crowd and I fade miserably away.

The Huffington Post did a great article on this (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/20/introverts-signs-am-i-introverted_n_3721431.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular),  Number 10 - the shutting down one - is the one that I'd most like to change.  It's irritating when my brain has plainly switched off and everyone else's is ticking along nicely, thank you.  But if there's too much to take in all at once, it just...drowns.  

And how is all this related to my divorce?  That's a bloody good question.  My ex husband is also an introvert.  But because I was the more 'extrovert looking' introvert, I had to do all the extroverty things - like speaking French in France (UGH!), talking to the builder (ARGH!), and even paying the babysitter (GAH!) which he pointblank refused to do because he is a scaredy cat ninny, and he thought that it would be easier to shuffle the responsibility onto me.

I hated it.  And he knew it.  But he did it anyway.

And that, my dear reader, is one of the reasons I left him.  Sucks boo.

___________

Follow me on Twitter and I'll love you forever: @avapiaf1

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

What I find sexy about the boyf

I had a visit from the boyf this weekend whilst the boys were with their Dad.  We've had our ups and downs, have me and boyf, but good God, I find him sexy.  But why?  To look at, he's not inspiring.  He wouldn't launch ships.  He's got a double bald spot and is 12 years older than me.  He's got arthritis and can't walk very far without limping.  He has depressive episodes.

But.

He oozes something.  Something nice and warm and oozy and spicy.  Something slightly dangerous.

In short, he's hot.  And this is why.

1. He is funny.  Not all the time - when he's depressed he's not a laugh a minute, I grant you - but he is generally very funny, outgoing and confident.  He's the type to sing operatically in public.  To embarrass you.  He is articulate and creative and can make up funny stories.  He makes me smile.

2. His is talented.  He can play piano by ear.  Fuck me, (sorry), but this is a powerful talent to have.  He listened to a favourite song of mine that he hadn't heard before, and played it with all the right chord progressions, inversions, a slight jazz lilt.  I sit.  And listen.  In awe.  And then I generally take my pants off and wiggle my bottom at him.

3. He rides a motorbike - and I can ride pillion.  Like you perhaps, I was always told never ever EVER ride a motorbike.  They are DANGEROUS and only ridden by MORONS.  Well stuff it - I like it.  I like the speed, I like the fact that you have to hold on to your boyf's waist, that you're in such close proximity, that there is a whiff of risk about the whole thing.  Yes. I. do.

4. He sometimes ignores me.  If I text him and he's engrossed in his work, or if he's down, then he won't text back.   He's like a cat that turns his back.  I'm the owner trying to coax him to sit on my lap.  I find this incredibly frustrating but it just makes me want him more.

5, But when he's with me, he showers me with compliments. *sigh*  Young, beautiful, sexy...each one a load of rot (of course) but I'm taken in hook, line and sinker.  I am not used to a man giving me compliments.  It heals my battered confidence and reforms my ego into something whole again.

6. He goes for it in bed.  Nuff said.

_____________

Follow me on Twitter: @avapiaf1

Thursday, 15 August 2013

A Letter to the Boyf's Ex Wife

My boyf had an affair with me.  His wife found out and chucked him out.  Ridiculous boyf thought it would be a good idea to tell said ex wife my name, the town I lived in and where I worked.  And of course, since she had looked at his phone, she also had my mobile number.

So for many weeks I was contacted by his ex ('H') in a variety of ways.  Texts, of course.  Linked in messages.  Comments on my website.  Facebook.  And then emails and calls to my colleagues at work.

It got to the point where I was worried she would turn up with a bucket of acid.

I don't blame her, of course.  I would have done the same.  Actually, worse.  I probably WOULD have turn up with a bucket of acid.  Or shit, probably.  Less likely to go to jail that way, I should think.

As my regular readers (of which I know I have at least one - thank you mother) know, H texted me again recently, as it was a year since Boyf left.  Because I am a nasty person, and because I hope she never finds out, I reproduced it in this blog.  The language used was much calmer but essentially it was very sad; she said she would always consider Boyf to be her husband - the implication of which being that she will never move on and find another loving relationship.

I have never responded to her.  I would love to, but I know that it would only scratch off the slowly healing scab and let the blood flow again.  So I thought I'd write my response here.  It's a sort of therapy for me.  I hope you don't mind.  Just skip over the boring bits.

Dear H,

Thanks for your recent message and indeed, for all the ones that went before.  I don't blame you for contacting me and for saying the things you did (although, I have to admit, contacting my work was a low point for me and I did seek legal advice at that point).  I know this sounds highly patronising coming from me, your arch enemy, but I get it.  I completely get that you feel I have ruined your life and your family and have brought everything crashing down around you.  And I am truly sorry.

Why am I writing to you?  I suppose to apologise in part.  But also, to use your phrase, 'woman to woman', to encourage you to stop blaming me, stop using me as a focal point for bitterness and an excuse not to rebuild your life.  I know!  Of course you'll never listen to me!  It's ridiculous.  And that's why you'll never see this letter.

Let me tell you something.  From your texts, you infer that I seduced 'C' with my younger woman wily ways.  That I was somehow out on the prowl, looking for sex and on a mission to create family wreckage wherever I went.  That he was, in fact, happily married, and I persuaded him with the use of my extremely small boobage and damp crannies to leave you and his children and live with his mother in some shitty road in South London.  Evil, aren't I?

It's not true.  We met at some gig where the person I was with was far too busy shmoozing other people, so I was introduced to C, who was also alone.  I asked him a shedload of questions; partly because that's what I do, partly because I was nervous.  I didn't fancy him.  He was nervous too - he did that fidgety tourettes thing with his leg and wouldn't look me in the eye for about half an hour.  We spoke at first about his job and he talked about your kids.  Lots of people came up to him to say hello and he was obviously really well-liked.  

After another beer, he told me - this will be hard for you - that he didn't love his wife.  That he was planning to leave you and live in Paris.  He was going to leave everything behind and live the life of an artist. Bare, naked.

He danced with me in a most peculiar way and then said he had to go.  I kissed him on the cheek and asked him to send me a postcard from Paris via our mutual friend.  

And that was it.  I didn't expect to see him again.  I didn't know his second name, where he lived...anything, really.

But then he contacted me through Linked In.  I was really surprised - I hadn't actually given him my full name, had I? - but he had tracked me down, somehow.  And yes, after several emails, I agreed to meet him.

So this is my point H - he did the groundwork.  He doesn't love you.  If it hadn't been me, it would have been someone else.  Did you know he'd had an affair before?  No, I didn't think so.  He stayed with you to keep the family together, and because of this, you have all become increasingly unhappy.  You say you were on the brink of a new life.  I'm sorry, but you are wrong.  You were on the brink of Armageddon, however you look at it.  He.  Didn't.  Love.  You.

Why the hell am I blasting the last remnants of happiness that you are hanging on to?  Am I really that much of a bastard?

Possibly.  But if I were you, I would want a stab at rebuilding a life with someone who did love me.  And the first stage of that is to accept that the person you have hung your hat on for all these years has been a complete shit to you.  He has treated you badly.  He has been unfaithful.  You have supported him through his depression and he has thrown it back in your face.  Please.  Recognise this and find someone who does love you.  Stop saying "he will always be my husband" and realise that he won't - and he hasn't been for many years.  

Think about it.  And move on with your life.  

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The Boyf has Gone Away

The Boyf has gone on holiday with his children (daughter, 17 and son, 21).  He has taken them in his campervan to the New Forest, where they will be pony-riding, doing archery, and going to a spa.

If anyone asks, I'm saying "YES!  It's wonderful.  He's spending quality time with them, doing lovely things, and it's fabulous for their relationship."

In my head, I believe all of those things.  But in my heart, mention of his children makes me a bit sad.

They don't like me, you see - and I don't blame them.

In their eyes, I forced their mum to kick out their dad.  I ruined their family.  I am the black-hearted, evil woman who turned their mum mad and who took their dad away from them.  I was 'the other woman' and I changed their lives forever.

It's all bollocks, of course.  If it hadn't been me, boyf would have had an affair with someone else.  Or he would have done what he was threatening to do and left for Paris, never to be seen again.  But it's right that I take it on the chin.

There are so many things that I want to say to them, most of which I never will.  All I really want is to meet them, to show them that I'm not cloaked in black with a pointy chin and a red apple.  To show them that I make their Dad happy, and hopefully, one day, to form some sort of relationship with them.  Because they sound lovely.

I just hope they don't hate me forever.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Not Quite Made Properly

I've written lots and lots and lots about divorce, single parenting, solicitors, finances, new relationships...  They're all very big issues and I wondered if I could focus on something a bit smaller for a change.

Namely, how my body is put together.

This has been troubling me for a while now.  I have...um...issues.  It's like, my mum's body made the right side of me, but when the left side was forming, she smoked a giant spliff and everything went a bit pair-shaped.  Here's why.

1. My left eye is lazy, and has a squint.  It looks slightly outwards.  I wore a patch when I was three.  It was glued to my eye under my National Health specs, which were tied onto my bunches with string.

This was not a good look.

People are very kind and say they can't see the squint, but I know they can, particularly when I'm tired or drunk.  And some people have been kind beyond belief and have said that it makes me seem particularly 'interesting' and 'beguiling.'  HAHAHAHAHA!  I have nothing else to say.

2. I've got a hole in my heart.  (For those of you who are not biologically blessed, the heart is on the left side of the body - hence my left-a-phobia.)  It's not in the heart wall, but in between the chambers.  It apparently contributes to tiredness and headaches (I get lots of these) and raises my risk of stroke.  Hooflippinray.

3. Veins.  I have lots.  Well, we all have lots, but on the left side of me, they've gone nuts.  I've had two ops to remove varicose (ugh) veins from behind my left knee.  Faulty valves, apparently.  And I've got broken veins galore on my left thigh.  They are hideous.  When I manage to grab a rich guy, I'll get my veins fixed.  In the meantime, I'll wear trousers.

4. I broke my left wrist rollerskating when I was 11.  It hurt.

5. I'm left handed.  I know!  It's as if the God of balance said, "Look, I've fucked up your left side BUT, to make it up to you, I'm going to make you write with your left hand!  I know!!  I'm brilliant!!!"

I wonder what other Left-isms you'd find if you opened me up?  Perhaps my left kidney is filled with chickpeas.  Or my left hip is a figment of my imagination.  Or my left big toe is actually someone else's thumb, grafted onto me when I was a baby because mine was missing.

I'd love to hear about your imbalances, or things about yourself that you find amusing or confusing.  Please post a comment or two!


Sunday, 11 August 2013

7 Brilliant Things about Single Parent Holidays

So, bar the physical exhaustion I'm feeling now (why do my shoulders feel so achey?), this was the best holiday I've been on for a while.  And I was on my own with my boys.  Mrs Responsibility.

I was a bit scared before going, to be honest.  I know it was only to Wales and not to Timbuktu, but still... there's the organising and the packing and the map-reading and the car breakdown stuff and the money and the what do we do when we're there and the first aid kit (and so on).  It's a strange thing.  When I was with my husband I still did all this stuff, but because there were two of you the responsibility didn't hang on your shoulders quite so much like a bucket of bricks.

Anyhoo.  I got uppity packing the car up because I always do.  Can't stop myself.  But once en route... it felt good.  And when we were there, it felt brilliant.

Why?

1. I organised it, so I chose the transport

Unless you're a complete dunce, you'll have arranged transport that suits you.  Me, I'm a UK girl.  I don't like the heat so much, and I particularly don't like hanging about at airports playing cards.  I don't like being surrounded by people I don't know, either at an airport or in a plane.  I'm odd like that.  So a car journey it is.  You can stop when you like, there's just you and your dear ones in the car and, bar arguments about music and the occasional call of 'I feel sick', what's not to like?

2.  I was going somewhere I knew I'd love

See above.  You've organised it.  So you'll be going to somewhere where you know you'll be happy.  Love the sun?  Spain maybe.  Culture?  Italy.  Tavernas and tinkling boards?  Greece.  Exotic?  Maldives. etc.

Me - I like hills, beaches and sheep.  Wales.

3. When we got there, I was in charge

There's none of this wiffly waffly compromise stuff ("Well, if we must go to the car museum then I want a day looking at that stone circle").  You factor in what the kids want to do, then make a decision.  End of.  Having said that...

4.  I kept the kids happy

What I found out is, if the kids are happy, then you are happy too.  My kids love body-boarding, so off to the beach we went, kit in tow.  I went the sea a couple of times (no wetsuit - good for the heart - maybe) then retreated to my towel where I took up residence, one eye on them, the other on my book.  A break for sandy sandwiches, and they were back again, battering the waves.

Happy and knackered, they slept well.

5. We found other families

This was sheer luck.  I have to admit that I hadn't given this an ounce of thought, and even when we arrived at the campsite, I still had my stand-offish front on which says "hello, I'm smiling, but really I don't think I want to talk to you very much."  However, they broke me down, these families, and the boys were delighted.  Although they were the eldest of the bunch, they made friends (with girls!  Ugh!), played beach cricket, Kick the Can (don't ask), badminton and footie.  They took us in, were kind to us, helped me out occasionally and gave me wine.  I could ask for nothing more.

6. We made fire and used knives

Ask the boys and they would tell you that the campfire and learning about bushcraft was the best thing about the holiday.  Yes, they needed supervising and yes, my eldest thought he knew everything there was to know about axes and fires (annoying AND dangerous) but the course they went on taught them so much that I didn't want to curb their enthusiasm.  Also, once the fire was lit, we got to toast marshmallows.  And nothing beats that.

7. We took it easy, and booked just one costly activity

Ok, we were lucky.  The weather, on the whole, was good.  And when the weather is good in Wales, you don't need to spend loads of money.  You just go to the beach, or go for a walk.  But I wanted the holiday to end on a high, so I booked a jet boat ride for the three of us on the last day.

I can't tell you how fabulous it was.  'Awesome fun' is not a phrase that I have ever used before, but I think it sums up this experience.  We sat on the outer tubes of the boat, gripped the handles with white knuckles, and clung on for dear life whilst the boat span 360 degrees, aimed straight for the cliffs and stopped in an instant, bounced through the bluest waters I've ever seen (yes, even in much hotter climes) and got us all soaking wet.  And added to all of that, we saw baby seals.  And added to that - we saw a pod of porpoises.  We followed them for 10 minutes, watched them arcing in and out of the sea.  Oh. My. Porpoisy.  God.

So, in summary: be open to other families.  Let them help.  Be kind to the kids.  Don't spend too much.  But do one exhilarating thing towards the end of the holiday.

And then come home and prepare yourself for the three tons of washing, sand in your camera and melted boiled sweets down the side of your car seat.  And start preparing for next year's holiday.




Saturday, 10 August 2013

Eating Humble Pie

Ok.  I admit it.  I was wrong.

Those families I told you about.  The ones who didn't have tellies, were veggie, had children called Tarquin etc....they were all lovely.  I am a sneery snobby bitch, and deserve to be flogged.

We had a fabulous holiday.  It was my first one as a single parent, I was surrounded by 'normal' families, and it was absolutely fine.  In fact, they took care of us.  They liked us.  They kept an eye out for us.  They invited us to the beach, to barbecues, to camp fires, to games of cricket.  We were the most popular family there - and we were the weirdy group, the one mum two children oddballs, the people who didn't fit.   Our popularity was nothing to do with our niceness, but the niceness of others.  And bloody nice they were too.

My boys had a great time.  They argued, of course (the worst of which was this morning, when there was a fight over the compost loo and some angsty almost wet trouser avoidance) but the lure of a camp fire every night, with marshmallow toasting and wood chopping, sent them both into spirals of delight.  They went on bushcraft courses and my youngest practised his whittling every night, whilst my oldest got his borrowed axe out and chopped kindling.  (I have to say that this did cause me some responsibility stress so I had to limit 'sharp implement' time to just 20 minutes per day before I had a stroke.)

The tipi was a great success although I had forgotten that it can get quite cold at night, and hadn't really brought the correct bedding.  So we all went to bed in what we were wearing, and gradually got smellier and smellier throughout the week.  I have already told you about the lovely cat.  My youngest now wants a cat for his birthday and has already named this future cat 'Dandelion.'  I am already fretting about how on earth I put a catflap in.  Must look on YouTube.

I took lots of photos but I think this one sums up the holiday.  The skies in Wales are bluer and bigger than anywhere else.  That's official.  I read it somewhere.  This photo is taken somewhere north of St David's; no idea what the islands are called but to me they will always be Booby Islands.


I'm knackered.  Til tomorrow, then.



Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Wales - good for the soul

So.  Here I am, glamping, in Wales, with the boys.  Today, I am feeling happy and sunny and gay, because the sun has got his hat on and quite frankly, I'm in the most beautiful place in the world.  But yesterday morning I was the gloomiest Eeyoriest parent from here to Birmingham, because it was drizzling, and cold, and I hadn't brought enough clothes, and the boys were bored, and I felt out of place on the campsite.

I still feel out of place.  A bit.  We are staying on the most amazing campsite, with fabulously friendly and informed owners.  We are in a tipi (I know) and the other 8 pitches are a mix of bell tents, eco huts, 'stargazers' (no, I don't know either) and yurts.

Everyone else is from North London.  They are all couples with young children.  One of them told me yesterday that they don't have a telly (I hate this - why, if you feel this strongly, do you feel obliged to share it with the rest of us and make us feel like shit parents?).  The adults are teachers, lecturers, Government advisors, PR agents.  Or was that secret agents.  I'm not sure.  Their talk is all Primrose Hill, delis, The Guardian, vegetarian, organic, Blackberry.  Now, I don't want to sound like I'm against this sort of thing - I'm a fan of a good Deli and I do attack The Guardian once in a while - but en masse, in a pack, and in their perfect 2.4 nuclear units, it's a bit unnerving for a single parent like me who actually, really does like a bit of crap telly.

The one shining light in the darkness was that, at 'Pizza making evening' yesterday (I know), one family had a huge bottle of Coke.  This was the family who had no telly.  And suddenly, all was forgiven.

The boys love it here.  We did a bushcraft course on our first morning all about how to use knives.  I almost had a stroke - I was so tense watching my youngest son with a nine tenth's sharp bush knife in his hand that I had to lie down all afternoon.  My eldest son chops wood like the world is about to end.  And we have just been body-boarding at one of the most gorgeous bays IN THE WORLD and, of course, bumped into a family we know from home.

One extremely lovely thing - a cat visits our tent, night or day - the rules are hers - and she lies on my youngest son's bed.  They have built up quite a friendship, cat and boy.  He will be sorry to leave her.

And here she is, in all her snugly glory.




Thursday, 1 August 2013

Waxing Feminism

I am a bit behind the times, it appears, when it comes to waxing.  A GP friend of mine was telling us, a gaggle of 40 something women, what a ridiculous state of affairs it was that most girls under 30 were muff-less - if you get my drift.

Blank faces all round.

They have brazilians, she said.  All of them.  Pubeless.

Now, hang on a minute.  I am not understanding this for an instant.  So a woman, intelligent, strong, mind of her own etc etc, walks into a beauty salon and says, "excuse me, can you rip out all my vaginal hair and, for the pleasure of which, I will hand over a princely sum of £25 or more.  Oh yes, I know it will hurt.  And yes, I know there'll be swelling and possibly some sort of skin reaction.  But I don't care!  Because that's what my man expects!

Because he watches porn.

Yes, it's all driven by the porn industry (which, by the way, I'm not wholly against - but that's for another day).  Porn actresses are made to wax.  Why?  Because it's good for the angle, good for the light...good for the shot.  It's a directorial decision.

Whenever I've had sex, there hasn't been a director present.  At least, I didn't spot him.  Perhaps he was hiding behind the wardrobe.  So why on earth have young women taken on this waxing gauntlet?  Why have they not said, "Actually, it hurts, it costs, it takes time, it itches and, to be honest, it doesn't look very nice.  So I'm not doing it any more."

By all means tidy up the hedge a bit so you don't get twiggy bits sticking out of your bikini bottoms.  Fair do's.  You don't want people to point and stare on the beach.  Well - maybe you do, but not for that reason.

But don't spend your time and money and energy doing something that pleases him and not you.  Be a bit more natural.  Surprise him.  Do the big reveal in the dark - perhaps he'll think that the cat has got into bed with you.

He might like it.