Sunday, 29 March 2009


Big week in our house. My eldest has to go for an operation under general anesthetic. It's not a big procedure. She doesn't have to stay over night and she will only need to be unconscious for an hour and a half. It is not an emergency. It is planned. It is a relatively straight forward procedure and the surgeon has carried out similar operations countless times before. I know all this.

But this is my baby. My princess. My first born. My maternal instinct is screaming at me to pick her up and run for the hills. She doesn't need to have the operation. It is not a matter of life and death so my heart says " Delay. No need to put her through it just yet." But my head knows the reality of the situation and must counsel my heart into taking the necessary and appropriate action. So far so sensible.

Child number 1 has had problems with her ear almost all her life. She had her first ear infection on her first birthday. We had planned all kinds of treats to mark the first anniversary of our becoming parents. And there she sat, looking forlorn and small in her pink pyjamas all day, too unwell really to get dressed. Poor little mite. Off to the doctors. Antibiotics for perforated eardrum and on we went. Until the next time. And the next. When she was two and a half the ear drum burst and never healed over and that is what the operation has to fix by some clever fiddling with muscle tissue and spare skin.

Since then I have beaten a trail to doctors and hospitals usually after holidays when a fortnight in water has caused some ghastly infection despite our best endeavours to prevent water getting in. She swims like a fish. Has done since she was very young and loved competing but there has always been a huge payback for her. Her hearing is impaired - probably contributing to the noise levels when she is around. She has almost daily pain and regularly has to deal with the embarrassment of gunk or blood or both pouring down her cheek. So of course this is the right thing to do.

If you have children you will understand. If I could do it for her....If there were anyway that it could be achieved without her having to go under the knife I would do it. But I can't fix it or make it go away. I have no power. I am her mother but I cannot protect her from what is about to happen to her. I know that there will be plenty of other situations in which I will be similarly unable to do anything but that doesn't make it any easier. I signed the consent form. I have allowed this to happen and now I must sit back and let it take its course offering love and support and comfort wherever and whenever it is required.

Of course, her main concern is that she will have to have some of her hair shaved so that sort of puts it into perspective. And hopefully it will be a success. She will emerge with a functioning eardrum, repaired hearing and a licence to get her ears wet whenever the mood takes her. If I believed in a higher being I could pray. As it is I shall wish for success and bake for when she gets home. In one piece.

Saturday, 28 March 2009


PTA events are always a bit of a struggle for me. I am not good at committees generally. I always get cross with the proceedings and/or the other attendees. This leads to one of two types of behavior to manifest itself. Either I get cross but can't be bothered to contribute to the discussion which leaves me seething and swearing that I will "never go to another of those bloody meetings" or I am vocal and say something inappropriate resulting in raised eyebrows all round and general ostracizing in the playground.

However, I didn't always feel this way or perhaps I did but managed to disguise my feelings more effectively. When my eldest child started school I duly turned up at the first PTA meeting all bright eyed and keen to help. I got there in plenty of time in case parking was an issue. It wasn't. Including myself and the Headmaster, there were 7 of us there and I later learned that that was a good turn out. And so I spent the first three or four years of my children's school career volunteering to help with things. It was fine. I kind of enjoyed it and it made me feel part of the school community.

And then the make up of the committee changed. The sensible, practical women who had been in charge to date resigned and were replaced by the type that you often find in positions of pseudo power. It was immediately apparent that I would no longer fit in. By this point I had a toddler and a baby as well as two in key stage 1. Then, a sensible member of staff made the very valid point that I had plenty of time to contribute to the PTA, given that I would have children in school for the next eleven years. I seized that escape route and ran down it so fast you couldn't see me for dust. She was right. I had bags of time to re-involve myself with all matters schoolish at a later stage.

I have now reached that later stage but suspect my PTA days are in the past. I am now too jaded and realistic to enter into the spirit of things. However, from time to time I will volunteer for something just to show willing. I pick my events carefully. Don't expect to see me at the Christmas fair or sewing costumes for the carnival parade. I will stand on the door of the school disco - too noisy to chat to other parents and lots of opportunity to see my kids interact with others without them noticing. Another one that I will volunteer for is the Easter party. It is only attended by foundation and year 1 children who are all still sweet and not gobby. Also, as i have a child in each of those years I know all the names. So this afternoon my younger children and I set off for a couple of hours of singing, craft activities and egg hunting at school.

Every year there is a competition run for the best decorated egg. I provide my children with a hard boiled egg and a variety of paints and craft supplies and let them get on with it. The results are mixed. One child did win one year but it is always pretty clear that mummy wasn't involved in the design. I knew my afternoon was going to be a struggle when the first person I saw was a particularly irritating mother with an egg beautifully crafted into a very cute Easter bunny. Clearly all her own work. I know that I am supposed to make enthusiastic and appreciative comments about the talent of her son and that my life would be so much easier if I did exactly that. But I can't. " All his own work?" I said with just enough inflection in my voice to make it clear that I meant exactly the opposite. She spluttered something about her cutting out the pieces but her son sticking them on. I gave her a look that said " Yeah right! " and she moved off at speed to find someone who would ooh and ah as required. It's no wonder they hate me!

Anyway, after this early stumble I managed to behave myself for a while. I made coffee with the mum with bipolar disorder that everyone else avoids and listened ad nauseum to people sharing stories about parents' evening ( another occasion where my tongue got the better of me). I heard at least five mothers telling anyone who would listen how bright their son/daughter is and kept my counsel. It's amazing how bright the children in Ilkley seem to be. Mensa watch out! I am sure there will be a block entry from All Saints' school in the very near future. I think what is easily forgotten is that I have been through the school from bottom to top twice already. I know how it tends to pan out. What I need to learn now is to keep it to myself.

So that's my PTA duties done for another year. The children had a thoroughly enjoyable time and that is, of course, the point. I can now retreat back into the edges of the playground and keep my head down and my mouth shut. Until boredom and my mischievous streak lure me back out again.

Thursday, 26 March 2009


Yesterday I posted a booking form and a deposit cheque. This summer I intend to undertake a two day course to teach me the basics of paragliding.

" You can't do that!" I hear you cry. " You're 42. You have four children. You have responsibilities." That may well be true but I have reached a stage in my life where I have to take back something for myself. I accept and am happy with the indisputable fact that I sacrificed my thirties to my children . However,I can't keep on doing that or my life will have passed me by. What really is the issue? Am I not supposed to take any risks now that I have dependents. Can I no longer fly anywhere, ski, scuba dive - all the activities I love - for fear of injury or worse? Where does it end? Should I stop driving or crossing the road or leaving the house?

I have always been fascinated by the idea of being able to soar through the air with little visible means of support. Flying is my only remaining reoccurring dream now that being chased, being late and appearing in public naked appear to fallen out of my sub-conscious. My dream flying takes two forms. Historically, I used my ability to fly as a way of getting to places more quickly. So, if I was dreaming I was late for something and there were people in my way, as there invariably were, I would jump into the space just above their heads and swim a kind of breast stroke through the air.I don't know if the point of the dream is the lateness and people in my way or my ability to fly but I prefer the latter part. As is often the case with dreams, these images are so realistic that it is sometimes difficult and extremely disappointing to wake and realise, yet again, that I can't actually do it for real.

The second type of flying dream and the one that I tend to have now, also has a slightly darker side. In it I fly purely for pleasure, not to escape anything or speed my progress. I fly high but as if I were a dolphin in water diving and spinning as takes my wont. However, I am always aware of the considerable danger of going too high. It's not an Icarus moment. I have nothing to melt. It is something more akin to "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" when the bubbles make Charlie and his grandfather rise too high and precariously close to the blades at the top of the chamber. My dreaming and quite lucid fear is that if I kick off without there being something for me to catch on to, that I will just continue to rise up, up and out of the earth's atmosphere. It is this that adds the element of fear to the dream and not the act of flying.

Anyway, I decided that I needed to investigate the possibility of hang-gliding or paragliding before I lost my nerve, got too old or too feeble and had to spend the rest of my life regretting that I only ever flew in my dreams. I have some idea what it might be like. I parascended from the back of a landrover when I was 15 which I adored and off a boat in Greece in my 20s so I have a degree of confidence that I will not wobble at the last minute and change my mind, although both experiences were a very long time ago.

I have filled in the booking form, signed the medical questionnaire and paid my deposit. I now have to wait for a weekend with the appropriate weather conditions and I am off. When it was just an idea I had lots of support from those that I mentioned it to. Now that it is about to become a reality people are showing concern, which is a little unnerving and asking about insurance which makes me question my actions. Is doing something that you know to be dangerous and potentially fatal unreasonably selfish? Perhaps if I were doing it without proper care and consideration but I have done my research and am sure it is as safe as it can be. Does it make a difference that I am a woman? Unquestionably. Extreme sport is de riguer for any man worth his testosterone. Caring, nurturing mothers are supposed to stay close to home and provide a safe and secure environment for their brood.

In the light of all this, will I go ahead with it? Absolutely. I have responsibilities to my family but also to myself and if I don't continue to grow and develop as a person what kind of a role model will I be for my children, particularly my beautiful daughters who one day will hopefully be making similar difficult decisions for themselves.

So now I am just waiting for the call.

Sunday, 22 March 2009


Here I am. It's Sunday night and I am spending time wondering what I should blog about. Sunday evening appears to have become the blogging hour and I like the discipline that that sets me. If Sunday were to come and go without me putting pen to paper (as it were) then I would feel guilty. When I started to blog last August, in a rush of excitement at the prospect of my new lifestyle, it was to allow myself some sort of creative outlet where I could play with words and sentence construction, something that I have always enjoyed doing. If I were now to let a week pass without writing something, it would be as if I had given up on that opportunity to explore and that would smack of slipping back in to " mother of pre-school children" hell. I really needed to move on from there. So by having a structured and regular place in my week devoted to blogging it motivates me to do it, not least because of the guilt that I feel if I don't do it and there is enough guilt in the world without me adding to it unnecessarily.

But each week an issue arises. What shall I write about? I have certain rules. 1 . No moaning. It would be very easy to choose some aspect of modern life, moan about it for a page and then conclude with a witty sentence about how things were better in the old days. This may pay the mortgage for some column writers but it’s not my style. 2. Nothing too personal. I must not lose sight of the fact that these musings are published throughout the world and that my blog is not a diary. Whilst I am sure that no one but my nearest and dearest read what I write, I am conscious of not giving too much away. 3. No bitching. See above. These rules are simple to follow and really not that self-limiting and so I cannot use them as an excuse when my muse fails to drop in for tea.

Sometimes, I have a germ of an idea, a kernel that plants itself into my consciousness during the course of the week. I acknowledge its presence, am grateful that Sunday should be sorted and push it to the back of my mind. But then, when I sit down to write it, it becomes apparent that it only has enough legs for a witty paragraph or two but can take me no further. I sometimes think I should write something made up of all these first paragraphs just to see what it would look like.

The most frustrating situation (and ironically one that has just occurred in relation to this very posting) is when the web site's auto save function crashes and all my efforts are lost .Irritatingly, this always happens when I am at my most erudite and the words never flow as smoothly second time around. I am certain that this paragraph read better the first time I wrote it.

Sadly, when I struggle to think of a subject it makes me realise how mundane and uninspiring life can be. To date I have not let that hold me back and have blogged about the ironing and cleaning children's shoes, both subjects which take up an inordinate amount of my time but are not obvious sources of inspiration. Perhaps I should just approach the problem by sitting down and typing what comes into my head without having given it a second thought. Or should that be second's thought? Both expressions work just as well in their context although I don't know which the commonly accepted idiom is. And there I go off on a pleasing tangent. Perhaps I should not worry about it and just go where my thoughts take me. You will be pleased to know that next week's posting is already taking embryonic shape at the back of my mind. A bientot.

Sunday, 15 March 2009


I, like most of the adult population if the media is to be believed, intend to grow my own this year. In these austere times the whole of the UK will be digging up any lawn that has not already been turned into hardstanding and planting vegetables.It's all very trendy. No food miles. No unnecessary chemicals. No lining Mr Tesco's pocket. All this and it's good for you physically and mentally to boot. Why wouldn't you do it?

This won't be my first year in the veg patch. If you have been following my ramblings you will have read all about last year's efforts. This year, though, I intend to try a bit harder. First of all I tootled off to Harlow Carr Gardens to a course on how to grow veg where I picked up lots of tips and a few freebies. Then I got some raised beds built. Obviously I didn't do it myself. I wanted it to happen and for them to still be standing when harvest comes so I paid a professional to build them for me. That makes the average cost per vegetable pretty high this year but they will pay for themselves in the long run I tell myself.

A seed catalogue dropped through my letter box and I perused it at length carefully selecting what I thought might be the best varieties for my family's needs. Again I limited myself to things we might actually eat and duly ordered my seeds back in January. Since then I have been waiting. I am not confident to do anything other than plant directly into the ground, lacking both a greenhouse and the patience to replant seedlings. And so the earliest that it appeared that I could get started was March.

It has been March for two weeks but it's been far too chilly for me to get out in the garden. I hate the cold. However,as I raised the blinds this morning and looked out at a bright day with no clouds and no wind, I had a good feeling. Perhaps today would be the day. However, first things first. Hoover and mop the floor downstairs, change the sheets, run child to party in Guiseley, counsel eldest child regarding flakiness of her best friend who has let her down, deliver birthday present, prepare eat and clean up food for six three times, hang out washing, listen to youngest two read, clean school shoes. And the finally get out into the garden.

And so the first quandary. What to plant where? I have three raised beds of varying size and depth. I learned a bit on my course about crop rotation but not enough to understand it properly. Something about legumes together and brassicas somewhere else. I stood and looked at them for a bit and then decided that if I didn't do something soon it would be dark. Having decided which bed should do what I then worried about the direction of my rows, the lengths of them, how much room to leave for subsequent sowings. It's a minefield!

When I finally got going the sun had dropped down behind the moor and there was a distinct chill in the air. But I set to and marked out my drills, dropped in the seeds at the allotted spacing and marked them so I know what to expect where. And so all I have to do now is watch and wait. Having had such bumper crops last year my expectations are quite high . We shall have to wait and see.

Sunday, 8 March 2009


It has been a strange week. Various things have happened which have been out of the ordinary but the one I choose to dwell on here is the passing of a friendship. A friend of almost ten years standing behaved badly. I told her that I thought she had done and to start with she was apologetic and contrite but as the week went on it became apparent from her actions that she was feeling more outraged than embarrassed and as things stand today I suspect the friendship to be dead as the proverbial dodo.

Falling out with people is not something I do as a rule. I grew out of it as I left childhood behind. Either I avoid people who annoy me or I will discuss the problem openly with them. As a result, disputes very rarely seem to end in a parting of the ways. When I was a girl it was very different. Falling out with your best friend was a regular occurrence.Sometimes there would be an unholy row in the playground with everyone taking sides. Often the first I knew about upsetting someone was when I walked into class and my earstwhile best friend had swapped desks and was sitting with someone else. Either way, these things were generally short lived and easily overcome.

So it came as a bit of a suprise to find myself there again at the age of 42.But I am busy and I don't have time or room in my life for anyone who brings negativity with them. There are but a few people that I would call my friends but each of them bring me something positive and worthwhile. They are loyal and true and make time and the effort to consider my needs as well as their own. This is recipricated and a mutual loyalty and respect is born of it. Friendships like this are worthy of nuture and whilst their number may be few the positive benefits that they bring to my life is of a price greater than rubies. There is no room for those who cannot contribute in this way and I shall shed no tears for the passing of something which cannot compete with the real thing.

Sunday, 1 March 2009


Today is not my son's birthday. It wasn't his birthday yesterday either. In fact he will not celebrate another birthday for three years. You guessed it. Leap year baby. My little Leapling.

I knew he was going to be born on that day. Even on the day which I suspected to be the date of his conception I mentioned to my husband that he might be born on leap day. I thought it might be special, particularly as he is a fourth child. His due date was actually 22nd February, a date on which I was not keen for historical reasons but I never really worried because I knew he would be late. The other three were.

On the 29th February 2004 I woke up in labour. I knew I would be so I was all ready to go. My mum came to sit with the other three and off we headed for hospital. We got booked in, hooked up to the monitor and then everything stopped. No contractions. Nothing. "You can go home and come back later," they said. No way. I was there. My childcare was in place and my baby was going to be born on that day. I could see, however, that there was very little point my husband staying so I sent him away and began walking round the grounds of the hospital in an attempt to kick start labour again. I walked a circuit around the perimeter fence all day, stopping only to eat and wee ( so quite a lot of breaks). Then finally around 6 I called my husband back and waited for things to get going. Which they did. As it was my fourth labour I knew exactly what to do. It was all incredibly calm. I could even accurately predict how many more contractions I had to deal with before he came out. I say "he". We didn't actually know but I had seen something suspicious on a scan and was pretty certain I was carrying a boy. My husband had never believed me and was astounded when we produced a male.It was 9.50 pm. I had only just managed to achieve my goal.

Now that I had a child with a leap day birthday I started to think about the ramifications in more detail.Does age increase without an anniversary? Would he qualify for things measured by age? Would computers accept his date of birth? And perhaps the most perplexing, when shall we celebrate his birthday? This last question has been a source of great consternation. As far as I am concerned I was still pregnant on 28th February so how can that possibly be his birthday? However, the rest of the family seem to think he has to celebrate in the month of his birth and that a March birthday on the calendar just wouldn't be right. He is too young to choose himself yet although this year I think he would have gone for March if it hadn't been for the undue influence from my eldest.

As he has no birthday in most years I see no reason why he can't just pick a day he fancies. Neither 28th February nor 1st March are his birthday so why confine himself to one of those? Why not choose a nice June day so we can have a bouncy castle in the garden. Only I seem to think that this would be an acceptable arrangement. Does no one else have any imagination?

There is a web site for Leaplings. It's American of course and a bit schmultzy but you can get cool t-shirts that say things like " Be nice to me. My birthday isn't on the calendar!"There's a list of famous Leaplings and a Roll of Honour for all those who share this special day.

Last year of course he finally had a birthday. He was 4/1, as his sisters have taken to describing his age. It felt very special to me although I suspect it was just like all the others to him. Whilst he is quite bright he struggled with the concepts that allow for an extra calendar day every four years. Well I can't explain it with any precision.I really should try a bit harder so that I can cover it properly next time when he is 8/2.

So his non-birthday has come and gone for another year. He is 5/1 and has gone to bed a happy and tired little boy.Only three more years to go.