29 September 2014

If Him Upstairs is Listening.

The other day the eldest pointed at a white car and asked if we could have one of those.  He said he liked it because because it was 'big, flashy and shiny.'

I had to admire his taste.  It was one of those new smaller Range Rovers, we've since discovered to be called an Evoque.  

We decided on a navy one.


After that little chat he said we should really have three cars - the posh one for a dog (which we don't have), our old Ford Focus for every day use (which we do have) and a big fat van for camping (where we never go).

Then he added a fourth too - a Lamborghini - which would be good for me and my boyfriend (also non-existent) to go out on dates. Stop laughing at the back there. 

Anyway, not being a greedy woman, and just in case Him Upstairs is listening, I thought it best to make it clear that I'd settle for just the one.  And it doesn't even have to be navy.  We wouldn't mind the colour, really (although I'm not fussy on the Bronze one), especially now the panoramic roof, rear seat entertainment and gorgeous leather interiors and other amazing extras have been brought to my attention whilst searching for an image for you. 


We hope to get a dog, so promise it wouldn't be a waste.  We'd happily use it every day and be proud to take it camping and wash it lovingly by hand when we got home.  The bits we could reach anyhow.


And, frankly, I'm too old to have a boyfriend who didn't drive his own car anyway.  So it's settled.  


Thanks ever so much.

Anya xx


P.S. I do believe in encouraging children to follow their dreams, don't you?



(Image courtesy Wikipedia).  Excellent taste, my son. Honestly flexible on the colour. Ta.  



26 September 2014

Which Scooter for a 9 Year Old - Micro Scooter Sprite vs Trixx Review.

It's not very often you'll find a middle aged woman googling 

1.  How to bar whip
2.  How to buttercup
3.  How to tail spin

Nor is it very likely you see many watching scooter tutorials.  But that was me a couple of months ago - lost in the language, heart in my mouth, trying to tempt the eldest into trying out a stunt or two on his new Micro Trixx Scooter. 

We'd been sent two to compare - an every day Micro Sprite one and this one, because so many of us want to buy them as Birthday (or, dare I say it, even Christmas) presents and don't know which to choose from the multitude on offer.  

Although he already had one, it wasn't particularly brilliant.  It's a different make and after only a couple of years has not worn very well.  He was due an upgrade and with both the boys having had the very popular Mini Micro Scooters ones when they were littler, I had a feeling that theirs designed for older children would be better quality than the one already in our possession, so we were happy to explore.  

Our job was to see which we would choose for a nine year old.  They're actually quite different to each other and the result might surprise you.

After battling to assemble both of them - a couple of emails, a phone call and a strong bloke for the Trixx later - we were ready to roll.  I've included the instructions at the end of the post because they don't come with any and googling brought up plenty of other people who'd asked the same questions! As has become expected of them though and as their reputation attests to, the service at the company was immediate and excellent and the quality of both the scooters is as we'd hoped for - superior to any others we're aware of.


Micro Trixx Scooter £119.95


Micro Sprite Scooter £79.95
First of all, my son was quite taken with the Trixx (119.95).  It looks cool, it's weighty with a wide deck and thicker wheels that make for a smooth ride and 'better balance' and the handlebars are fixed at a setting he likes.



.



It wasn't brilliant at long distances though.  It's really meant for a skate park and not every day use. He was in love with it nevertheless.  I was too worried to take it anywhere in case it was nicked, plus it's quite big and heavy to lug about if it doesn't like the terrain you happen to be out on.




The Sprite started out as the poor relation at from £79.95, but as time passed and he picked it up more often than the other one, his heart changed.  He even tried out a few stunts on it whilst I kept asking him which one he'd pick if we were buying just one and he felt OK doing so, but, naturally, it didn't feel as safe after having used one designed for them.  If he'd never known any different, it might not have been an issue.




It has its own stand, is faster and not as fussy about road conditions, is lighter and more portable because it folds, whereas the Trixx doesn't.  Also, we found that we had to make special journeys to skateboarding and scooter parks to use the Trixx and he didn't seem that bothered about making the time to do that. Ultimately, it transpired, that he was a little intimidated by the other, older boys at them and would rather not go.  It might be his nature or because he is only nine.

For all our normal every day out and about activities, this one was more fun.




Therefore, if we had to select between the two scooters, we'd actually choose the cheaper one, the Sprite, but if your child is more inclined towards stunts the Trixx is a brilliant option, especially if you're happy to have a second one in the house / shed / car.  You'll need to learn the lingo though and kit your kids out properly with helmets and proper pads which we failed to do when just pootling.  Bad mother award accepted, thank you.  *Blushes.*

Micro Scooter's stunt riders are called Toren Jarritt and Louie Fulton.  If you pop into Google their names and 'scooter tutorials' you’ll find loads of stuff.  Plus BenJ Friant is the best scooter rider in the world (and rides for them too).  He has tonnes on his YouTube channel.   

You'll be the most amazing, coolest mum in the universe if you can show them that stuff, regardless of whether you're middle aged!

The second option, the Micro Sprite Scooter is the one he eventually selected.  It's also the least expensive one.  #Win!

Disclosure - We were sent the scooters in exchange for an honest review. All words and opinions are our own, obvs.

How to assemble a Micro Trixx Scooter.
1) Discard the black cap covering the lower metal part
2) Insert handlebars and ask someone to hold them steady with the front scooter wheels between their feet whilst you  
3) Tighten the screws with the Allen key provided in the order of bottom, middle, top, then again in that order and then again as necessary.
4) And then you ask a stronger person to do the same because you can't get it secure!

Stop press: You can now watch a tutorial they've made - HERE.

How to unlock a Micro Sprite Scooter.
Put the scooter on the table in front of you, with the front wheels to the left.  Slide your hand between the handle and the deck right up to the wheel.  You will locate a silver push button, press that in with your thumb whilst holding the scooter.  As you press in you should hear a click which should release the handle to come up.

23 September 2014

Our Trip to Jersey with Condor Ferries - No Passports Required.

Yonks ago, I lived and worked in the Channel Islands - in Jersey to be precise.  They're situated about 14 miles north of France but are very much part of the UK.  It's impossible to deny the French influence but English is spoken and they drive on the left like the rest of us.

During the second world war the Nazis took Occupation of them for most of it - that's how close they came to the mainland - and although there's lots to see with regard to their fascinating history, there's an awful lot more to explore.

With me being only 18 when I arrived, much of it was wasted on me, but I left four formative years later with a taste for a decent dinner, an aperitif ahead of it and a yardstick against which to measure other beaches around the world.

I'm still in touch with friends over there and like to pop over when possible, but had put it off for a while thinking all of us needed passports and had never got around to ordering one for the youngest, which would mean an extra expense towards any trip, perhaps making it prohibitive.

Seeing as they're British it seemed silly to need one, but, on making further inquiries, it turns out that it's only necessary for us all to hold passports when flying, for airport security, but it absolutely isn't necessary should we travel by Condor Ferries instead.

I cannot tell you how quickly we tried to book our holiday and seeing as tickets start at £49.50 per person with a car, which I deem to be an absolute necessity over there, it can also work out much cheaper than flying.  #WinWin!

The cost to go at the last minute in peak season summer holidays came out slightly more, naturally, but I came to an arrangement with the ferry company for the purposes of the blog, because I think a lot of parents are in the position I found myself where they hold passports but maybe one or more of their children don't.  Not to mention the fiasco that has been occurring this year with those who've actually applied for them but have spent weeks or months receiving them and had to forego their travel plans.

A break to the Channel Islands is like being abroad - things are different but the same, as I hope you see from the video below.  We went the speedy route from Weymouth via Guernsey, taking a total of four hours. There is also an overnight ferry from Portsmouth but that was out of service at the time.

To be able to take your own transport is a godsend.  Although you can get around by bus, they mostly run out of St Helier, the capital and where the port is, but the west of the island is where all the best beaches are so it's good to be based there and pootle about freely.  (You'll need to buy a book of parking paycards, but they're easy to find and not expensive).

Jersey is only ten miles by six so it's possible to even cycle around it in one day, but hiring or having a car gives you the ability to explore bays like St Ouen's (a surfer's paradise) or Rozel, both in the north of the island and all the little villages in the centre, such as St Mary and St Peter, plus, in the east, there are some truly sumptuous restaurants set in seriously scenic spots.  The food is where the French influence is most seriously felt, but it's not formal, just great standard cuisine generally.

Jersey is only 10 x 6 miles - easy to explore by car.
When you can tear yourself away from a world of wonderful coasts, there's still tonnes for a family to do.  There is no VAT in the Channel Islands - they have a completely independent tax system - so you might enjoy shopping even more than usual (think JEWELLERY ladies!) but, best of all for children is Durrell Wildlife Park.

We only just missed Jersey's very own Hollywood star Henry Cavill - the current Superman and Man from U.N.C.L.E. no less, who was born and raised on the island and is still a member of their Rugby Club! (Sorry about the scrunched up Jersey Evening Post rescued from my friend's bin but you can read the full article HERE).

The current Superman -Henry Cavill at Durrell's Wildlife Park the week before we were there!
He has fond memories of being a regular visitor to the zoo (as it was called then) when he was young and remains so passionate about their conservation work that he has become an ambassador for them and the initiative #CavillConservation has been started in support of it.

There's also aMaizin Adventure Park, some magnificent castles and the equivalent of our National Trust - Jersey Heritage - with a variety of gorgeous Gardens growing a wide variety of warmer climate fauna than we're used to in the rest of the UK.  Plus, there's plenty of up to date public entertainment.

When I lived there it was illegal to dance on a Sunday but, gladly, that is no longer the case!

Elizabeth Castle - you can walk there when the tide is out but you'll need a lift back when it's in!
It might be worth inquiring about a Jersey Pass if you want to visit lots of attractions but the jury is still out on whether one of those that gets you into all of them for free, is actually worth the outlay.  It will depend on how much you want to do.  Also, my friends there use a voucher site called JT Rewards and that's definitely worth checking out for daily offers.

They're trying to reboot tourism on the islands with local businesses getting behind a recently launched Visit Jersey.  Hotel prices have historically been high, but many have closed, so they've had to change tack. The industry is reportedly responding to being revitalised and there is a range of accommodation right through from camping and Hostels and Yurts to high end stuff with definite deals to be had.

We loved travelling by ferry.  Being in Club Class rocked!  The supplement is reasonable (£16.50) and gets you their special 52 seater lounge, with attentive but unintrusive friendly waiter service - offering free tea, coffee and soft drinks, biscuits and cakes, newspapers, big, comfortable seats at tables with their own charging stations, and an impressive menu from which to purchase lunch or dinner.  I felt it was worth the extra investment on the way out, but on the return evening journey it came into its own because the eldest wanted to be outside on deck and the youngest needed to sleep, so I flitted about between the two and could see directly into or out of the lounge windows and keep an eye on them both simultaneously.  The staff were very supportive of my position and also helped out.  (Thank you Garry and Ping!)

Children are well catered for on board.  It's easy to get around and there's a Kids Zone with colouring stuff and a TV where we watched a bit of 'Frozen' or 'Tom and Jerry' when they weren't exploring elsewhere or enjoying being outside and there is a Bistro that offers those lunch boxes that they like with sandwiches and stuff, as well as a drink and a treat (£5).

For adults, there is also a cafe bar and a duty free shop (think PERFUME ladies!).  All in all, the time goes very quickly.  The video below shows a few aspects of the ship, including our trip up to the bridge which was very exciting!  We learned that the bigger boats (like the one we were on) must get out of the way of the smaller ones and we watched lots of activity on the radars.

Mostly, it shows fantastic beaches and lunches because we were blessed with perfect weather and that's basically what our holiday was about - hanging out with people we know and love.  If, though, you fancy one that's like being abroad but isn't, and you don't want the hassle of of flying with children, or don't have a passport, then you might like something like this too:




Disclosure - We were provided Club Class tickets by Condor Ferries in exchange for a review of the ship.  I threw all the other stuff in for good measure.  All words and opinions are my own obvs!

18 September 2014

My Beautiful, Darling Boys.

Just off the Greek Island of Lemnos.  Don't mind if we do, thank you!
Although it seems ages ago now, we had a lovely summer break - lots of activity and a few trips away - one close to home for a gorgeous wedding, one on a ferry trip to Jersey, yet to write up and even another one unexpectedly abroad, which meant a very exciting first flight on an aeroplane for the youngest and no sleep for any of us for a night at Heathrow Airport because of the racket, before we lifted off ourselves, but that's all still to come and it's actually related to the blog and a new drive for single parent holidays (Hooray!).

Great as it is to watch what other people are getting up to via their on line feeds, I took a decision to be getting on with our own lives rather than be a spectator of others' and to give the kids my attention rather than endure the behaviour that seeks it and turns me into a frazzled wreck.  I wanted to enjoy them whilst they still want me.

It's simply unbelievable how quickly the time comes around that they don't, even to just sit on our laps anymore.  My eldest is now nine years old and it has flown.  He is far more independent than he used to be, sticks his head in a book and refuses to play 'Headbanz,' won't kiss me at the school drop off, preferring to be 'cool' and I am left feeling abandoned and even more dejected than is par for the course - which, FYI, is plenty!

He is such a brave little soul, a bit 'adultized' according to the agency supporting him with our current court proceedings, but who can blame him when he is forced to stand up to his father about stuff he quite clearly remembers and his dad denies has ever happened?  He holds his ground, gripping defiantly and tightly to the truth in his heart and, although this is a sad, sorry state of affairs, he makes me incredibly proud.

He loves to show off his newly hairier legs, while I will struggle to tear my eyes away from his face to marvel at them, so handsome he is becoming.  His jawline is firmer and I can almost see the man he will be.  He is kind, gentle and funny - a beautiful soul and spirit.  He takes my breath away and, even though my friends tell me their kids of a similar age are also awfully grown up, we're making a point of more child-like play, being silly and pretending, keeping him as young as possible for as long as possible.

The other one is no longer a maniacal three year old, but a totally crazy five year old cheeky chappie. Quite different. Also funny, and a real charmer.  One day, if I play our cards right (and if the stress hasn't killed me), he will make millions from performing or sport or both.  But he will choose his own path, because, having been born seemingly more switched on than both his brother and me put together, he always has!

I look at the length of him when he's sleeping and wonder what happened to my baby.  He's in his hand-me-downs a year earlier than they're designed for and complains vociferously about not choosing his own stuff so we have to go shopping in addition to him having the eldest's clothes.  He has been particular about what he wears or doesn't since before he could talk, when he just used to point to all the stripy things or pout if his particular choice was in the wash.  He has always been the loudest child in the room, but is a darling and he makes me very proud as well.

My beautiful, amazing, brilliant, darling boys, how I love you both.  Thank you for our super 2014 summer.

Mummy (while I can still say that instead of Mum!),

XXX

29 July 2014

How to Make Curry and The Good Wife Test.

The other day my lovely friend Liza took me on a belated birthday treat to a Jamie Oliver afternoon cookery course and in the space of a few hours we'd knocked up a few dishes and devoured them.

Seeing as I'm crap at making curries but, being half Indian, absolutely adore them, indeed need them, from the vast array on offer I chose the one to make a North Indian Thali, thinking, that learning how to make a few dishes was better than just one.  And it was!

There are only a few of these establishments, presently changing their name over from 'Recipease' to 'Jamie's Cafe,' so that they're more easily associated with the star chef and each of them runs a cookery school.  We're lucky to have one in Brighton - the others are in London (Clapham Junction and Notting Hill).

Liza had already undertaken a sushi making lesson and has been raving about it.  Having been delighted to be one of her guinea pigs shortly afterwards it would be fair to say that it's some of the best I've ever had because it was so fresh and for the £35 it cost to learn it's something certainly worth investing in if you're partial to it.  I ate quite a bit of it when I worked in New York because it was easy to come by and relatively cheap there, but I'm not that bothered either way about it.  Liza, on the other hand was so impressed she has now incorporated it into her new Asian catering business.

Most lessons are 1 1/2 - 2 hours and it's possible to perfect dishes from Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam as well as good old fashioned English dishes such as Beef Wellington, or Italian pastas, risottos and breads, plus there are some Summer Specials currently being run just for kids at just £10 per child.  Check out the full menu of what's available (see what I did there?) HERE. 

But this is the kind of food I can't live without, so here's what we were going to make -

A North Indian Thali.

And here's the chef showing us the way -

At the Recipease / Jamie Oliver's Cafe kitchen, Brighton.

We started with a Chickpea Masala.

75 ml Cooking Oil
1 teaspoon Mustard seeds
½ teaspoon Asafoetida (Hing)
2 medium White onions – finely diced
200 g Chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon freshly grated garlic
½ teaspoon red chilli powder
1 whole Green chilli – finely diced
1 teaspoon Ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Good pinch Sea salt
1 teaspoon Turmeric
1 tin (400g) Chick peas - drained
1 teaspoon castor sugar (optional)
Good handful of Fresh coriander leaves
Garam masala (garnish only)

Most things had been prepared for us but she taught us to plate up our spices individually - as it's easy to add to them but not to take away once they're in the pot!




The method and details for all the other dishes are HERE (with permission).

Always use a base of fresh garlic, ginger and chillis and the transforming ingredient Asafoetida, apparently, as this smoothes out the curry.  My problem has always been that the spices still taste too rough, raw or powdery, so I will be investing in some of this.  Bear in mind, also, that although some of the ingredients were repeated when she demonstrated how to make a traditional Dal (included in the link above) most are really quite pungent so whichever you add or leave out will make a difference.  Adjust to personal taste, obviously.




Before very long at all we had one of these -

Chickpea Masala - try without and with sugar added.

Followed seriously swiftly by a dry Okra curry and a tasty cabbage dish that turned out to be served as a warm salad called Sambharo.  (Again, all recipes and methods on the link above).  Then we had to take The Good Wife Test.

Liza taking The Good Wife Test.

We had prepared some little breads called Puris and left them to rest:

300 g chapatti flour
Pinch sea salt
1 tsp of vegetable oil + extra for shallow 
frying
150-200 ml (approx.) water
(Optional extras on the link above).

In the parts of India where these are made - a mother will decide on whether a lady will become a good wife for her son judged on the height her Puris rise!

If you want to take the test, here's what you do.

- Put the flour and pinch of salt into a bowl (add optional ingredients now if 
  you want to - toasted sesame seeds, chopped dried chilli and chopped coriander) and 
  add the salt and mix
- Mix the water with 1 teaspoon of oil and mix together using your hands or in a 
  machine
- Knead to soft dough
- Cover and allow to rest for about 20 minutes
- Rip small balls from the dough about 20 g each ball or as big as you like
- Roll up into neat balls then flatten out using a small rolling pin
- Heat the remaining oil in a wide shallow pan or deep fryer when the oil is hot 
  carefully place the small puri in the oil and cook till golden brown turn over and 
  ensure they are golden brown on both sides
- Drain on a little kitchen paper before eating with your North Indian dishes.

So what did ours turn out like?

Ta-dah! 

Not too shabby at all!  So we celebrated by eating everything we had made, together with the Dal we'd been taught how to do and the meal comes with a cold beer / glass of wine all included in the price of the lesson.  Everything was delicious and having cooked the majority ourselves has given me the confidence to be more adventurous again.




If you don't want to be crap at making curries either and can't get to one of their cookery courses - here's the link again - http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipease/files/3013/6196/8392/North_Indian_Thali.pdf

Thank you to Recipease / Jamie's Cafe, Brighton and my lovely friend Liza for an all round good value, educational, entertaining and fun afternoon.  We'll definitely see you again and the eldest will be choosing one of the kids' summer courses too.

Now I wonder if there's a test to see if a man will make a good husband....

This is not a collaborative post.

16 July 2014

The Truth About Being a Single Parent.


Following on from The Truth About Being an Older Mum it occurred to me recently to do the same about being a single one.

Lots of people find, by choice, they become a single parent, some have it forced on them.  Either way, there's so much you can predict - the practicalities are doubled, your guilt as a parent never leaves you and how the children cope is dependent on how well you can, or not.

There are deeply painful conversations to be had - you all wish things had turned out differently, your children need constant reassurance and protection from you, their suffering is your suffering and, most of the time, you get along just fine, because anything other arrangement is better than one that involves conflict.

But every now and then something unpredictable comes along, something you can't explain to the children sufficiently, something that adds to their already quite normal embarrassment about our circumstances being different to most of their friends' and out of somewhere deep, you have to draw out yet another solution, one that's tougher than the rest, re-inforcing how hard it is to be going it alone.  And it's not always possible:

The Five Year Old was arguing with me.  He was absolutely adamant about something perfectly reasonable, but I wouldn't give in.  I will never give in.

I will never let him go into the Gents' public loos alone.

He and the Nine Year Old come into the Ladies loos with me.  And that's final.

But they need to understand.

Who can blame them?

What does one say to two such young children who want to do what their mates do?  But their mates go in with their Dads, they're told.  They're protected from predators, they're not told.

Until now.  At some point, as excruciating as this conversation is, it's got to be held.  By me.  Like all the difficult ones are.  And I don't mind, it's my job, my privilege to protect my children, to teach them, educate them about matters, but ones like these are super trying.

Those about mums and dads splitting up, living apart, and, in our situation, complicated 'Contact' stuff are all second nature now and although they're far from easy, there's no choice in the matter or those circumstances.  We have to deal with them as best as we can, re-visit them as ages and perspectives change and we get used to having them.

This one conjured up a whole different scenario, having to skirt around the issues, but be as clear as possible without intruding upon their innocence.  It was tough and it's unlikely the matter is closed.  The eldest is a little more accepting because he has the experience of a man (known to the Police it later transpired) secretly beckoning to him in the local library when I once (very briefly, fortunately) popped off to fetch a glass of water before breastfeeding his baby brother, and, as fate would have it, he remembers a girl about his age coming into the Gents loos with her Dad on one of the infrequent times he was actually in one (escorted obvs).

So what do we do?  Aside from checking they're empty first then standing guard, which can only sensibly occur in smaller venues, there really is no option.  What upsets the older one most though, is the dirty looks he gets from the women using the Ladies.  I understand everyone's points of view, but they're my children and, surely, I'm not bringing them in with me for fun?  I tell him that a little awkwardness is a small price to pay for his safety.  He's still relatively small and vulnerable.  Perhaps those who disapprove could re-think their glares and share a sympathetic smile instead?

I tell him that the people who should be locked up for ever aren't and a lot of them live along the south coast, so it's us who end up feeling imprisoned.  But that's way over the head of the Five Year Old.

In fact, it's kind of a relief when the little one returns to being inconsolable over the heartbreaking whole household issue of us all 'really, really, really' wanting a dog, yet, purely for financial reasons, rather than social ones this time, he's not winning that argument either!

What kind of unpredictable or trying conversations do you have with your children?

2 July 2014

A Court Case, a Conference and a Cremation.

Normally when I'm very quiet, people know something is up and some kind souls will message me to ask if I'm OK.

Normally, I'm just coping with stuff and conserving my energy for dealing with it by having early nights and letting time socialising on-line be the thing that needs to give.

Normally, though, there aren't three super-challenging events in the space of seven days, preceded by several weeks building up to them.  Thank you to all of you who showed you care.

It's usually good practice to keep things close to my chest because then I don't have to face them all the time that way, but, sometimes stuff happens and it's just complicated, overwhelming, about the children in a way I don't want to make public or a combination of all three.  Sometimes, I'm just making a lot of noise elsewhere or consoling myself with a quiet coffee or even, perhaps, weeding the garden with extra gusto and wondering how to secure myself a proper job.  Sometimes, other things are a priority.

We lost my lovely Nana.

Some of you will remember me writing about her earlier in the year - 97 1/2, wonderful, loving, supportive, gregarious, bright as a button, so switched on she sussed the childrens' temperaments in an instant, funny, warm and an inspiration.  Her massive heart wore itself out and, very, very sadly, it was her funeral last week.  She would have loved to see so many members of our family come together like we did, the beautiful flowers and hymns and the playing of her gorgeous Il Divo.

This followed hot on the heels of the Britmums Live conference where I'd been Head Butterfly, holding peoples' hands to help them hold their nerves.  It was a great event and an opportunity to spend time with people who I know love me, who knew I was being brave and was grateful to be distracted.  They knew my heart was breaking and they were kind and tender and funny, something appreciated more than anyone can imagine.

Other positive things happened too.  I attended mainly writing sessions and after the one of them, a publisher handed me her card, saying she found me informed and engaging.  Please don't any of you put her right ;) so I will shortly be following up her lead, plus, I was advised that a recent research has found me in the top 10 Most Influential Single Parent Bloggers in the UK - which comes as a surreal surprise seeing as I deliberately don't hang my hat on that hook.

Having said that, however, there are two half-written posts in draft which are centred around being a single mum and as soon as the time comes, it makes sense to accept my fate, and, perhaps, capitalise on their other shocking announcement that now one in four families are headed up by single mums or dads.

Immediately prior to all this my ex-husband had decided to take me to court for increased contact with the children.  He has always been allowed more or less as much as he wants in a supervised environment but has battled against this since the beginning.  I find it infuriating, not to mention utterly inconvenient, hypocritical and a shoddy waste of time and energy, that he doesn't just play ball and build up trusting relationships with them so that the authorities (who are the ones who stipulate it) and I can see that they will be safe, emotionally as well as physically, but he doesn't seem capable of it.

So, instead of resenting any more moments he takes away from me, my life or them, with the inordinate amount of paperwork involved - something he has consistently necessitated for years by not using a solicitor, preferring to exploit me and mine, thereby shooting up costs and depriving the children still further of resources than he already does by refusing to pay any maintenance for them - I decided to take the rather more helpful view that each and every second is spent rightfully defending and protecting our boys, keeping them in an appropriate environment and facilitating their relationship with him in as healthy a way as is possible, but the truth is that it's difficult to ascertain how and what is best for them and I am happy to let the courts decide after their ruling that a further report is required regarding his mental health.

Being a Britmums Butterfly was an honour and a privilege and we, as a team, made it possible for lots of bloggers to meet up en route, or in a coffee shop or bar, ahead of the start of the conference, so that they didn't walk into a room of 700 other people not knowing anyone, if they weren't comfortable doing so.

I like to believe that firm, real life friendships were begun or cemented, the kind where people already know you without always having yet met you, the kind demonstrated to me in the midst of all this, where a sincere hug is given without any words being spoken except, secretly, 'I'm sorry for your loss, your Nana sounded incredible,' so that you can take a moment to accept a caress of comfort, but get on with your work without everyone else knowing your private grief, or 'I'm sorry that your shitty ex is still giving you such a hard time - he's such a tw*t.' And you can take another one to seize some solidarity, allow yourself to laugh and get on with your life.

That's what she would have wanted.

'Night 'Night Nana.

The boys and their Great Nana (1916-2014).

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