22 May 2016

What I Saw Today.

sea, brighton,
Some of what I saw today. 
As I strolled along a street in Brighton the other day, on my way to catch a bus, I saw a young blind man, leaning against a wall, chatting on his phone, while his companion waited patiently, clutching what must have been his white stick.

At the end of this road - clearly in my view - was the way to the sea.  I wondered how he felt about not being able to see the what I could and how it would feel to me.

I could conjure it my mind's eye with the memory of many a walk taken and hundreds of hours spent just sitting and staring, but he might never have done either and, anyway, it's no real substitute.

So, today, I looked with new eyes.  Sat on the top deck, I watched it all away along the coast - the greys and greens, the hues of blues.  Oh, how those of us who live here take it for granted.

Once in town, I took more notice of other things too - the childrens' funny flip flops for sale on a stand, for example and the copious colours glaring and jumping out of the shop windows.  What would normally jar, I rejoiced in, today, together with the pretty patterns on the beautiful clothes, the leaves on the trees and the sky - always a wonder - too.

I took more time, slowed right down, paid more attention and appreciated what I saw.

Once home, all chores were abandoned and I went to see the sea again, thinking of that young blind man  - how he would feel the spray in the air, smell the seaweed and taste the salt.  And a paramount part of the pleasure - how he would hear it.

I hoped he could enjoy everything else - especially today.  It was sunny and windy - my favourite, as each of the senses are truly tickled.  I felt extra blessed and humbled for all five of mine.

Later on, I lingered for longer at the trampoline as my son leapt about laughing.  I watched his expressions of excitement and exhilaration and could feel healing in my heart.

I gloried in the green of the grass and the garden, instead of worrying about the weeding and fretting about the stuff that forever never gets done.

I watched the clouds at 9.30pm when it was still quite light.

And on turning in, I lay there realising that perhaps I may not have two ha'pennies to rub together, but I am rich beyond measure.

(Until next door's newly acquired cockerel kept cock-a-doodle-doo-ing and I've had to start all over again!).

What will you see today?

Anya xx

16 May 2016

Janet Jackson (reportedly) Pregnant at 49 and Other Stuff.

Last week I was asked to write an article for Newsweek (no less!).  It was about 'Older Mum' stuff in response to word on the street about Janet Jackson expecting a baby at age 49.  This hasn't yet been confirmed but it hasn't been denied either, as the reporter pointed out in earnest as I tried to glean as much information as possible before rushing off something straight after work before the kids were whining for their tea.  The result is below.

I was rather proud they hardly edited a word, which kind of counteracted the lack of a fee and it really would be living the dream if, indeed, I had the nous to successfully manage both.

Gingerbread also asked me to write a piece for them - ('inspiring Single Parent stuff') which I called The Dark before the Dawn and BritMums recently hosted a piece I wrote about Blogging stuff -'Ploughing Your Own Furrow.'

So, it's not for lack of trying or completely out of the question, is it?  But it's yet to happen!

Someone who has always believed in me, however is the the lovely Izzie Anderton and I feel awful for not being around very much and to have let her down on the countless times she's tagged me on a variety of interesting posts, so I made a point of taking up the honour of being featured in her Blog Spot Interview' last week, which was great fun and I wanted to show my appreciation of her support for my 'stuff' over the years.

Anyway, back to the present point, I know some people who haven't lost hope of having a baby (or two) in their forties and although it's not ideal and people judge their motives, we don't really live in an ideal world.  More by luck than anything else, I was fortunate enough to manage it and this is what I had to say on the matter:-

So rumours are rife about Janet Jackson having a baby about a fortnight before her fiftieth birthday.  

How very dare she!

But when is the ideal time to do so?

Mine were born when I was 41 and 45, naturally conceived within a (woeful) marriage and oh, how I regret all that energy expended on a treadmill in my twenties and globe-trotting travelling in my thirties.

(O.K.  Not so much the latter.). 

The truth is that behind every mum of a certain age, there is a history of heartbreak.  Rarely is it intentional to have a baby just as we’re hitting the menopause and, believe you me, the two combined is not as nature intended.

Does that mean we shouldn’t do it, given the opportunity?

Not necessarily, no.

Does it mean we will be more tired?  Probably.

Does that make it illegal or immoral?  Nope.

What if we’ve yearned for children all our adult lives?  Does that make us wrong?

Perhaps we’re more grateful than those who are thrust into parenthood at an early age.  Perhaps we’ve plenty to offer the little tykes who turn up at an age that other people disapprove of.

Perhaps it’s a massive mistake.  Perhaps we should adopt one of the unwanted or unfortunate. 

Perhaps not.

They say ‘Man plans and Gods laughs.’  So it seems for women.

And if you’re clever and work hard, before you know it, you’ll be labelled a ‘Career Girl’ and everyone will assume you don’t want children, you’ve made a choice. 

Perhaps not, again.

I, for one, turned down opportunities to have babies with reprobates when I was younger.  As a child of a single mother with a decidedly ropey relationship with my father I didn’t fancy going it alone, didn’t think I could offer the best possible upbringing for my children, didn’t think it was fair on them.

And the irony?  Even at the ripe old age I am, decades later, I am doing it alone anyhow, stressed out of my skull trying to make ends meet, bringing up two beautiful, bright boys, acutely aware it’s not the best upbringing or fair on them.

They excel at school though.  Why?  

Perhaps being an older parent has its advantages.  Perhaps I appreciate the value of an education more than those half my age.

They are fit and healthy despite me being comparatively ancient when they came along.  Why?

They were the product of two perfectly good labours and births without complications or stitches, because I was old enough to trust my instincts, to see an Osteopath and an Acupuncturist all the way through my pregnancies so that my babies and I would be in the optimum possible place for when the time came and old enough to ignore the little whippersnapper nurses in the ward who thought they knew better, yet hadn’t ever gone through it themselves.

Grrrrr.

With age comes confidence.

Not confidence in men, though.  That‘s something else.  I still have terrible taste in them.

Perhaps, now, Janet Jackson is in a confident place.  She’s enjoying her third marriage with a much younger husband.  Perhaps it’s the right thing for them.

Could she have offered a child a better life when she was younger?

Perhaps she needed time to find herself, having grown up as part of one of the most famous families in the world. 

Perhaps now is the best time for her to devote her real self to motherhood, because, ultimately, if you’re going to bring a child into the world, the best gift you could ever give them is themselves too. 

Some of us take longer to get there than others, that’s all.

I wish her the very best of British.

She’ll very likely need it! 


janet jackson, pregnant at 49,
Janet Jackson allegedly pregnant at 49.  Image from Newsweek / Getty. 

3 May 2016

Win a Travel with Children Book by Lonely Planet.


Last year, at the Family Travel Show, I was delighted to see a stand by the very famous Lonely Planet people. Their books have been invaluable companions over the years to those of us who like to explore places abroad - going off the beaten track and living as the locals do. 

Nowadays, of course they've gone all 21st Century with apps galore, giving invaluable up to date information and what-not-to-miss tips for almost anywhere you can think of and they have also moved with the times of their millions of devotees by encouraging us to continue to travel with our children.  They sell our planet as anything but lonely - more of a huge opportunity for inspiring and inter-active adventure!

We spent much longer at their stand than at any of the others, perusing some of the samples of their 'Not for Parents' kids' books and willingly signed up to their newsletter which has been an absolute revelation with truly outstanding photography and enormously interesting and useful articles such as Tips to keep your family healthy on the road.

Today, I am giving away a copy of their Travel with Children book to a winner of the Rafflecopter competition below, but their shop contains hundreds of travel titles and is chock-a- block full of ideas of where to go with or without a family in tow.

lonely planet, travel with children,
One of the many publications for travelling with children by Lonely Planet.
This particular publication covers The Art of Travelling with Children - planning and packing with a world wide remit and a country by country guide - anywhere you can think of in Europe, as well as The Americas and the Caribbean, The Pacific, Asia, Africa & The Indian Ocean and The Middle East.  If you don't want to stray too far from home, England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales are also included. 

It made me want to just open it at random and follow wherever Fate led and gave me ideas for destinations that would never have, perhaps, entered my head - popping off to The Netherlands, for example - where 'The well being of children is a priority. They are welcome everywhere.' You can cycle, ice skate, take a boat on the canals (Teatime cruise on a pancake boat, anyone?) or visit a museum, of which, they tell, there are dozens. They advise us that the Maritime one has a pirate- led welcoming committee, the Rijksmuseum has incredible doll's houses and those such as the New Metropolis (NEMO) Science one have dedicated childrens corners and fun educational activities.  Oh and let's not forget the Windmill and Tulip hunting they also recommend, all of which adds to the appeal of somewhere really quite easy to get to that most of us might not think of.
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If you sign up to their newsletter you'll see the great offers to take advantage of when buying books and / or digital products (3 for 2 presently) and whether you're looking at going round the world or taking a short city break somewhere, it seems silly not to take them with you, as well as your kids!

If you'd like to be in with a chance of winning a copy of this book then please complete the widget below and if you'd like to go to this year's Family Travel Show, it's 1st-2nd October at Olympia, London.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

25 April 2016

To My Darling Seven Year Old.

'Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.''

(Aristotle) 

The youngest turns seven.  What kind of man will he be?
My darling youngest son turned seven last week.  It seems inconceivable and, yet, right too.  I'm actually surprised he has been so young for so long!

He is shooting up, almost as tall as his much older brother and is definitely the centre of our little family most of the time. 

He remains loud, optimistic, characteristically good natured, a giggler and quite mischievous, but deeply caring and compassionate. 

He still loves his dancing and drama classes and continues to wear out those of us who know him with his constant singing and inappropriate gymnastics. 

Every day with him is a blessing and considering his start in life - with just me and my eldest and all our struggles to just get by in the early days - most of which he has, thankfully, remained oblivious to - he has nothing short of thrived.  

He is an inspiration and to him I say this:

Thank you.

Thank you for coming, for everything you teach me, for the love you show to almost everyone you meet, for maintaining your innocence and zest for life to a degree that is utterly beyond comparison.

Thank you for making me laugh, for the persective you unwittingly and regularly grace us with, for looking after your good health and appreciating it even at your age and for your ability to count the smallest blessings as absolutely divinely given and important.

Thank you for insisting you choose your own clothes and sticking to your guns when you want to wear legwarmers or your jeans inside your socks so they look like them, for turning your nose up at trousers that aren't skinny enough and tops that just don't cut the mustard.  You've always been cool, even before you knew what constituted it.  And, rightfully, you're the one who decides what that is in your world anyhow. 

You'll make a wonderful man - if this is who you're going to be then - energetic, thoughtful and kind and never, ever boring.  You're everything anyone could ask for.   

And should you, one day, consider going out with less girlfriends and making a very lucky lady your wife, let's hope she will wholeheartedly accept your undying penchant for Superhero suits and poo jokes.  

Lots of love, as always, Angel,

Mummy xxx

21 March 2016

Things That Mightily Please Me.

Some of us just aren't meant for the high life, are we?

After a week of things that mightily peed me off, I was met instead with one full of pride and pleasing events, plus a little adventure that, perhaps, I'm not really cut out for thrown in for good measure!

Firstly, my youngest son took part in a dance show at a major theatre in Brighton.  He had a mini role as the only male in 'The Boy Does Nothing' and was like a little star amongst 15 (mainly much older) girls.  He held his own without even a hint of  any nerves and performed the splits to great gasps from the audience, which is probably the only time he's done at the right time in the right place.  Generally speaking, it's something he slips into at the most inopportune moments.

The 6yo who loves doing the splits!
And the following day, his older brother - by the far more reserved of the two - took part in a keyboard demonstration at their school, where a few of the children showcased what they'd been learning in their lunch time lessons there.  It was a much smaller affair, but I was no less proud. He seems to have a real ear for music and such a tender touch when he plays that, despite him being a beginner, it brings me real joy.

So, still on cloud nine after leaving the latter, I sauntered off to Waitrose, clutching some John Lewis vouchers I'd been given.  It's not a normal haunt of mine and I was looking forward to feeling like I was living the high life for a little bit longer.

But, honestly, it doesn't matter how hard I try to fit in to these posh places it's impossible not to let myself down.  I needed the loo half way round and had to nip round the corner to a cafe and pretend to be looking for lost sunglasses, then I ran out of parking time before paying and had to dump the trolley at Customer Services for a second time in order to pop out to the car park and chat up the assistant.

They were very polite while I explained my plights but it was obvious they thought I was one of those mad women who likes to pretend to do their shopping there and then scarpers without the goods, for which, admittedly, there is an attraction because it's like heaven in there, if one doesn't encounter the embarrasment and exhaustion generated by yours truly.

It is very pleasing, therefore, that the children seem destined for the high life.  Their mother is a lost cause!

10 March 2016

Things That Mightily Pee Me Off.

Last night, one of my Foreign Language students decided to change his bed.  That's all well and good you might imagine, but seeing as he's leaving on Saturday, it mightily peed me off.

This means I'll be washing and drying two lots of bed linen in two days instead of just the one. As well as that for the other four beds in the house over the course of the week.

And as I emptied the washing machine, muttering under my breath but really making my displeasure possibly but politely quite clear to him, it became apparent that the load coming out - at 9.45pm - had been infiltrated by a tissue, with only me to blame.

Aaaaaaaargh.

The other thing that compounds this little laundry-gate case is the backfiring of the bargain detergent I recently purchased in haste.

The childrens' coats were spectacularly muddy so it seemed sensible to eschew the normal non bio / Eco stuff in favour of  Surf, just at the beginning of half term.  The boys went off to their dad's for a couple of days while I went to work and got everything ready for us all heading off to France for a bit.

Then this happened.

A rash from Surf laundry detergent.
Aaaaaaaargh.  The eldest and I came out in a rash - he on his arms and legs and I on my arms and neck.  Not that we knew initially what had caused it.  Seeing as they'd been eating with their father, it wasn't anything food related and it took a while to work it out.

Mentioning my theory at the office, however and popping some pics on Facebook confirmed it though.  It seems lots of people react similarly to biological washing powders.

12 loads of re-washing later - over a period of almost a fortnight - with a different bottle of detergent and much more use of my tumble dryer than usual - cheap has most certainly not been cheerful.

And then I discovered some had got away.  It was sat there smugly in my ironing pile - stuff that had not yet been done.

So that's the next lot in, after the student's stuff.  And I'm grateful it surfaced before I'd gone to the effort of pressing it all, because if even more precious time and energy had gone to waste, that would have mightily peed me off as well!

*Pours a glass of wine to celebrate small mercies.*

What's been winding you up lately?

15 February 2016

Out to Lunch.

I was taken out to lunch on my day off last week.  To a proper restaurant. With an actual gentleman.

He's married and he's a Vicar. He opened doors for me, entertained me with witty repartee, ordered splendid food and drink and paid the bill.

What more could  a woman ask for on a Tuesday at 12.15?!

He wanted to pick my brains, as besides being a man of the cloth, he's also a comedy writer and, having retired from service in a very famous local church, he's wondering what else to do with himself.

I lent him Blogging for Dummies, talked about Twitter and listened to many a tale, plotting plenty of post titles for him as he regaled me:  'The Time I Met Tony Blair'  'My Dinners with Simon Cowell,' that kind of thing - all true - and felt very blessed to be in his company despite the absence of his clerical collar on this occasion.

He's a hoot, an experienced broadcaster and deserves a wider audience.  There's talk of a book too, the title of which I mustn't reveal, but suffice to say it's hilarious and it would undoubtedly be littered with uproarious facts about families and humanity, considering the hundreds of weddings and funerals he has conducted.

The snippets I heard sure are stranger than fiction!

He's also a good cook and likes to talk recipes, so I reckon there's space for him and he'd be warmly welcomed as a writer in our midst.

What do you think?

Father Martin Morgan, retired Vicar of St, Margaret's Church, Rottingdean.  Out to lunch, in the nicest sense.
Thank you Father Martin for your company, kindness, consideration and comedic take on life.  Can't wait to do it all again.

Anya xx