Sunday, 30 May 2010


Picture the scene. I am sitting at my kitchen island drinking freshly made latte and reading the lifestyle section of the paper. In wanders my husband. He stands for a moment looking at me quizzically.
"Is everything OK?" he asks, tentatively.
"Yes," I reply. "Why wouldn't it be?"
"Well..." He hesitates and I know that he's thinking round the options to say what is on his mind without triggering a disturbance in the apparent tranquillity.
"It's just that we go away in two days and you're calm." Light blue touch paper. Stand well back. He smiles at me in a sheepish kind of way and waits for what he knows, from many years being married to me, is inevitably going to come.
"I know," I say without looking up from my glossy. "I'll get to it in a minute."
"Oh. OK." he says. His sense of relief is almost palpable. He picks up the sports section and joins me.

What has got into me? Usually before we go anywhere I am chasing my own tail making sure that I have considered and planned for every possible eventuality and then tidied and cleaned like a demon so that by the time we finally lock the front door no one dares speak to me for at least twenty minutes whilst my brain relaxes.

But this time I can't be bothered. It's raining which means I can't do my washing because I can't dry it and so I can't iron it and therefore I can't pack it. And I am having difficulty arranging my thoughts. There is so much to think about that they all collapse in a complicated pile and make no sense at all. And most unusually of all I'm not really fussed. We will take some clothes. If we haven't got the exact combination to suit the unpredictable Lake District climate then we will get wet or cold or too hot or buy something. I will take such food as I have in the pantry and fridge. And then I can send the kids on an adventure to the shop or we can eat out.

So what is going on here? I see a number of possibilities:
1. I am lightening up. Don't be ridiculous. Once an anal control freak always an anal control freak.
2. The enormity of the task has defeated me. Perhaps. As I sit basking in the calm before the storm pretending that I can just leave the house as it is with only the clothes we stand up in, life is easy. But as soon as I make a start, I know what's coming next so I procrastinate.
3. Now I no longer have preschool children, packing becomes less complicated and the elder two at least can take responsibility for themselves and pack their own stuff.It's a smaller job and needs less consideration.

After careful analysis, I suspect the reason to be a healthy dollop of number 2 with a little of number 3 for good measure. And maybe, just maybe, I am beginning to see that if I don't do it all, life will continue as normal and the only person that will notice is me.

I will get to it. By the time we leave, we will have everything we need and the house will be clean and tidy. I am just not going to waste two whole days achieving it! And this is progress.

Friday, 28 May 2010


I am nothing if not a creature of habit. On Fridays I clean my house. And it's boring. Really, deeply dull. So as I beetle about the place moving things around and tutting loudly at the failings of my family, I entertain myself by listening to a selection of podcasts and carefully chosen works of fiction all calculated to either lift my mood or distract me far from the task in hand. It's dull. It takes most if the day. It has to be done.

Anyway, today as I listened, someone mentioned that age old tradition of wetting a baby's head. Obviously, it was a bloke. I felt myself bristle.

Only men could come up with this type of celebration. It has to be accepted, I believe, that the male role in creating a new life is fairly inconsequential in the grand scale of carrying a baby from conception to delivery. Yes, I accept that they are involved at the very outset but after that their role tends to dwindle to the odd rubbing of a back, fetching and carrying essential craving fodder and being shouted at as their partner's hormonal imbalances cause uncharacteristic mood swings.

And then, finally, the big day dawns and the man is suddenly totally surplus to requirements. It really doesn't matter how supportive they are, how calmly they pass on the midwife's instructions or how hard they have their hands squeezed. It is the woman that does all the work and should rightfully claim all the glory. We emerge, battered, bruised, exhausted and highly emotional with our new little miracle lying quietly in out arms.

It is at this point that the man could legitimately make mention of the pub. The woman, to be fair, only has eyes for the baby and is desperate to sleep so her partner nipping out for a quick pint would cause no problem whatsoever. She smiles at him and tells him to go with her blessing. Everyone is happy.

However, in my, not inconsiderable experience, this is not quite how it goes. In order to maximize attendance at the head wetting, a modicum of planning is required. Not everyone can drag themselves away at a moment's notice apparently. So calls are made and date is fixed sometime over the following week.

By the night of the head wetting things are looking rather different to the mother. All adrenalin and any drugs that may have softened the blows are well and truly out of her system and every part of her hurts. She has not slept more than an hour or so on the trot because the baby appears to have its days and nights confused and her milk has just come in causing pain that no man can ever begin to imagine. She has had to make endless cups of tea for visitors who won't leave and the midwife has told her that she absolutely must not have any alcohol as it will find its way into the baby's blood stream.

It is at this point that the unsuspecting partner decides to mention the little night out that he has planned with his mates. It doesn't go down well.

So, as all these memories were triggered whilst I dusted, it crossed my mind that notwithstanding my role in the birth of our children, I never got to go to the pub to celebrate. And then it came to me. I shall have a head wetting party. I know my youngest is 6 but what of it? I still deserve to celebrate. And what is more, none of my friends ever had head wettings for the birth of their children either.

So, I intend to fix a date and invite all my friends to join with me to celebrate the birth of my and their children with a tipple or two down at the pub. Diaries out girls!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010


Everyone in my house is awfully excited. Next week it's half term and we are making our annual pilgrimage to Centerparcs. We've been almost every year for 12 years and each time we have a better holiday than the time before. In the intervening months, things have always moved on. This time there has been lots of progress. Our youngest has learnt to swim and child number three has become competent on a bike since the last trip.

Centerparcs is a strange holiday destination for a family like us. Generally, we are almost entirely self sufficient. Our summer holidays tend to be spent in an isolated villa miles from anyone and that suits us just fine.

Centerparcs couldn't be more of a contrast. There are people everywhere. The houses are all built on top of each other. There is an unbelievable number of organised activities and a wide variety of restaurants at which you can have anything you like as long as it's chips.

But surprisingly enough, it's none of these attractions that keep us coming back time after time. Of course we love the tropical paradise, the crazy golf is really good fun and kayaks on the lake are a scream. But the best bits for us are going everywhere by bike, playing hide and seek in the woods and generally spending time outside. There's only terrestrial TV or the badger watching channel ( on which I have never seen a badger) so no technological distractions. Basically, our breaks at Centerparcs offer us the lifestyle that we would love to have if every day stuff didn't get in the way. We get to be together without interruption. We can go back to basics, as it were. Enjoy the great outdoors, the simple pleasures in life.

I know that we should be able to achieve this at home. We are surrounded by beautiful countryside within easy walking distance from our front door. But somehow days pass by and we rarely make the time to stop and take stock. When we are at Centerparcs we have no car, no technology and spend most of our time outside and we love it. It's ironic that we have to go to a holiday camp to find those qualities but if that's the way it has to be then so be it. Perhaps this year we will remember to bring a little bit of the forest back with us.

Monday, 24 May 2010


One of my weekend tasks is to think of a subject matter for my blog. This week I thought I had it sussed. We were going to a rounders tournament and I decided that this would allow me to have a gentle swipe at all the competitive types that there are around here.

It may be the same everywhere but as I live in this small town, Ilkley represents my total knowledge and experience. And Ilkley is very competitive. Parents are pushy, sport is at county level or not worth doing. Even my facebook page shows signs of competitive housewifery.

There's nothing wrong with a bit of competition. It's a dog eat dog world out there and if you want to succeed you have to be the best. But it doesn't appeal to me. If I was competitive in my youth, I have forgotten. I want me and mine to do well but it really doesn't bother me how well that is in comparison to other people.

So when I saw the team lists for the rounders tournament I thought, not unsurprisingly given how most things work round here, that I could just sit back on my hand crocheted picnic blanket and soak up all the material for a comic little posting.

But I was wrong. So wrong that I am almost ashamed to have had the idea in the first place. Shortly before Christmas last year, one of the mums from school, Kim, died from breast cancer. I didn't know her very well. Our paths crossed because we had children in the same year at school and she coached another of my kids in the girls' football team. She was lovely. Her death was tragic.

Amongst many other things, Kim played rounders competitively in a league until she was too ill to play any more and it was in her memory that the tournament had been arranged. I know a few people who had taken it upon themselves to organise the event and was aware that it had been no mean feat. So, whilst I didn't intend to play, I wanted to show my support by taking my family along and helping them raise money.

Saturday dawned bright and hot - a perfect day for an event like this. I packed up a picnic and suncream and off we headed to the venue. It was packed. Not only had the maximum number of teams applied for places but there were plenty of people like me just there to watch. The sun shone, the drinks flowed, the children played and the rounders, two matches at a time, commenced.

And that was when I realised that I had been wrong, that I had misjudged the competitors. Yes, of course, people wanted to win and the games were played hard. But that "win at all costs" attitude that I am so used to was not there. The day was about the tournament - of course it was. But the focus was not on the winning but on the woman for whom it had been planned. I saw nothing of the cut throat competition that you find at other sporting events in the town. Just fun and happiness and, at the presentation for the very gracious winners, a few tears for Kim and her beautiful family.

Sometimes the need to win does transcend other things. Kim was competitive herself. Had she been there she would have been doing her utmost to ensure victory. But sometimes it really is all about the taking part.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010


For the last three weeks I have been singing with a church choir in Ilkley. They were looking for new members and one of their sopranos, who knew that I used to do a fair bit of singing, thought of me. It's quite a big time commitment for someone who spends much of their time ferrying children about. The choir rehearses on Friday nights and then again before the service on Sunday. I had to give careful consideration as to whether it would fit into our lives but as I love to sing in general and adore sacred music in particular it wasn't that hard a decision.

I am really enjoying it, although despite my relatively wide repertoire, we have yet to sing something that I know. This means that my sight reading skills are being tested and this is what has made me think about how strange singing in four part harmony really is.

When you play an instrument, you learn how to read music and how the notes that you play correlate with the notes on the page. It is a physical thing. To play a C you press this key, to play a G this one. And gradually your fingers become more agile and your brain becomes more adept at making the connection with what your eyes see and how your hands move. So, as long as your instrument is in tune to start with, you play the piece accurately.

But with singing it is totally different. You are your instrument. You have to learn how to make the noise that comes out of your mouth match the note on the page. There's nothing to see. You can't check your finger position against the diagram in the book.

This, amazingly, is a skill that most of us learn very early on. We sing nursery rhymes and some pre school children can do this so that you can recognise the tune without relying on the words. And then we are taught songs at school and if we are lucky we learn how to make the same sound as everyone else and this is called singing in tune.

But then the next stage is to sing something different to everyone else. It is rather like being in a quartet. Four different instruments, all with different qualities, all making sounds which, when played together make music. And this is where the sight reading comes in. We have to be able to look at the notes on the page and produce the sound that matches the note based purely on feel and experience. If the tenors come in before me on an E, say, I have to hear that E and know how to get from there to a C so that I can come in, in tune at my next entry. And I have to hear that note in my head before I sing it because obviously I can't have a little practise out loud.

I had forgotten all this in the 25 years or so since I last sang regularly. When I thought about singing again, I thought of the pleasure of the sound not the mechanics of achieving it. But now, gradually, it is returning to me. I generally sing in tune but hitting the note that I want just by thinking it in my head first is a skill that takes time to regain.

Fortunately, the emphasis at the choir is very much on it being fun and they are very supportive. If I hit the wrong note and wobble the sopranos round me I can just apologize and hope that I get it right next time.

I don't suppose I will ever understand exactly how I and all those other singers know how to make the right note come out of our mouths. It's like text messaging - I know it works but God only knows how! I suppose if you have never tried to sing music in harmony, then you might never have given this any thought. But next time you hear a piece of choral music you may appreciate it in a different way.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010


Having received a number of complaints that it was prohibitively difficult to leave a comment on my blog, I have fiddled with it and now it appears to be much easier. You can either add a name or just comment anonymously - I don't mind which. So if you feel moved to say something, good or bad, then please do. It would be lovely to hear from you. Thanks. Imogen.

Monday, 17 May 2010


The female of the species is a deep and complicated creature. Our minds work in strange and wonderful ways which, though positively mystifying to men, make complete sense to us. Or at least they do most of the time.

Today I happened to pass by our local senior school as hordes of teenagers came flooding out on to the pavement. They were chatting animatedly, laughing and gesturing at each other with great gusto. I wondered what could have brought them all out when classes would usually still be in full swing. And then it crossed my mind. Their first GCSE. These year 11 students had just been freed from the captivity of the exam hall and were now engaged in the serious business of the post mortem.

And then, from absolutely nowhere and for no discernible reason, I began to cry. Suddenly I felt totally engulfed by some emotion that I couldn't identify. My tears were akin to those of sorrow but I felt no sadness. I was able to control the downpour but I felt that had I not wanted to check them, the tears could have flowed forever.

But why? Why do certain situations cause me to become emotionally inept? My children think it's hilarious. They now know a few of the triggers and cast sidewards glances at me to check that I am maintaining my composure when they arise. Maybe it's just me although I do remember my mum crying when children sang and telling me that her mum always did too. Perhaps it's a genetic thing!

I suspect this morning was a mixture of the innocence and promise of these young people on the cusp of the big world combined with the knowledge that my own children are fast approaching that stage in their lives. And on top of that, a quick tear shed for my own youth when everything was exciting and nothing was impossible.

If I tried to explain what came over me this morning to my husband, he would smile supportively but have little or no comprehension of what I was describing. Crying over a loose collection of thoughts and memories is not something that men seem to do. I have given up attempting to analyse my motives. I just go with the flow, so to speak and wait until it passes. I even enjoy the emotional surge sometimes as long as it hits at a convenient moment.

Perhaps it is a phenomenon peculiar to me alone in which case anyone reading this will be finally convinced that I have lost my grip. But I suspect not. As I say, women are complicated creatures and that is part of our allure.

Sunday, 16 May 2010


It's coming! There's no escaping. The supermarkets are full of related, or not so related merchandise and yesterday I saw my first red and white flag hanging precariously from a car window.

I have to say that I am really not that fussed about football. I can make an acceptable stab at explaining the offside rule and occasionally wow my husband with some piece of trivia but basically that's the end of my footballing knowledge. But I do like the fact that for other people it is more important than life or death (to paraphrase Mr Shankly).

I love the way that whenever there is a major sporting event that we have a real, or even imagined chance of succeeding at, the whole country explodes into a media fuelled fever. We all know that June will be sacrificed to cut price beer, barbecues, unpleasant fashion and, I am sure, ultimate disappointment. And whilst England is winning, everyone will walk around with a spring in their step. People will smile at strangers in the street, united by this sense of national pride. Suddenly everyone has something other than the weather to discuss and, if the gods are kind to us, we will have a mini heatwave to coincide with the competition to make our enjoyment complete.

But whilst I want the England team to fulfill its potential, this is because I like the effect that it has on the country and not from any passion for the sport. In fact I am not passionate about anything. I never have been. of course, I have stuff that interests me or that I might get a bit excited about - but passionate? Never.

But to be passionate about something must be a wonderful thing. To have something that engulfs your life so completely that you would walk over broken glass to get to it. I have friends who are passionate about stuff. Sport is the main category but not just participating, where passion may be confused with endorphins. These people are happy to be passionate from their sofas. They can't remember a time in their life when their passion was not the most important thing in the world. Of this I am slightly envious.

I have wondered over the years why I have never felt this kind of passion. Is this because I have not yet discovered the thing that will light my fire or because passion just isn't in my DNA? As I am constantly turning my hand to new things, I like to hope that the object of my yet to be discovered passion is just behind a door or over the next page, waiting patiently for me to catch up with it. But if I am honest I know full well that the reason I don't do passionate is because I am just not a passionate kind of person. I don't do highs and lows. I am pragmatic to a point of tedium and my brain is far too flighty to spend time on one particular subject. So whilst I would love to develop a passion, I know in my heart of hearts that it just isn't happening.

So I shall watch the football results with interest. I obviously won't watch any actual football. And I shall delight in England's triumphs and mourn its defeats with those around me. But you now know that really I am a bit of a fraud, far more interested in the competition's effects on my countrymen than in the actual results. Just don't tell anyone.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010


I think I am going to let my older two children have friends over for sleepovers. I have battled against it womanfully but I suspect the time has come to bow down with dignity and let the whole, dreadful business wash over me.

I haven't always been phobic about sleepovers. Remembering what fun they were in my childhood, I fondly thought ( albeit when my elder two were not yet out of nappies) how delightful it would be to have a houseful of little people scampering about the place in their pyjamas. When the children grew out of their cots I even bought them beds with trundles underneath in full expectation of this eventuality.

But then when they were about the right age to start having friends to stay over, I suddenly had two more toddlers, was on my knees from sheer exhaustion and the thought of unnecessary broken nights made my blood run cold.

I did have a few sleepovers and it started well enough. Controlled sugar consumption, relatively early lights out and plenty of threats meant that they weren't too painful. But then events began to overtake me. Sleepovers, from the stories I heard from other mums, became endurance tests which only the very hardy could survive. No sleep. Too many e numbers. Hugh amounts of mess and hideous children for the following two days became the norm and that was not a game that I was prepared to play.

So I withdrew and banned them. Of course my girls were regularly invited out by parents more brave than me but no one ever came back despite almost constant demands from my indignant children and their deprived friends.

Then recently, a friend with older girls whose opinion I value told me that she gave her house over to sleepovers most weekends because at least it meant that she knew where her children were and what they were doing. This I can understand. I am not quite at the point of parties and cider and boys but it won't be far away.

And things have changed over the years since I said no. We built the kids their own sitting room which is three closed doors away from ours. I generally get complete nights of sleep these days and consequently have a greater tolerance level for late nights. And we now have an en suite bathroom so I don't have to meet unexpected children on the landing in a state of undress.

So when my children get home from school tonight I shall give them the good news. I will allow sleepovers on a trial basis and it will then be up to them if they become a regular event. Over to you girls.

Monday, 10 May 2010


I shouted at my children this morning and threatened to leave home. It's not behavior of which I am particularly proud but such were my levels of exasperation that it just slipped out. As my six year old's chin began to tremble and tears welled up in his wide eyes, I knew that I had overstepped the mark but Saints preserve me! Can no one tidy up in this house except me?

I know that I am tidy to the point of OCD and that my other character flaws, which are many and varied, are enough to drive a Methodist to drink, but that's just the way I am. I like things to be straight. It keeps me calm and when I'm calm the whole house runs smoothly. You would think that my family would be able to see the connection by now but it seems not.

So I storm about the place bellowing about being chained to the house like a slave and having to do everything myself. I get quite carried away with my stomping and complaining. And then, just when I am reaching a terrifying climax, some child pipes up with "Can I help?" And it is at this point that my whole martyr status collapses. Of course they could help. I just won't let them.

The trouble is, when the children help it just means that I have to follow along behind redoing whatever it is they are helping with. I contrast the amount of time that it takes me to do whatever it is with the time it takes me to ask them to do it, nag a few times, instruct them on how the job should be done, wait whilst they complete it, show them why what they have done is not up to the required standard and either repeat stages four and five ad nauseum or just do the job myself.

I already spend a disproportional amount of my time on housework. Involving others just drags it out still further. If I'm not careful my clever delegation of work could result in my never leaving the house at all.

But I can't moan if, when they actually offer to help I spurn them. So far I have tried to delegate basic tidying, hoovering, ironing, cooking and dusting with very patchy results. But I just don't have the time to redo their efforts or the heart to ignore it.

A friend of mine went on strike, refusing to do anything but cook. When I asked about her progress five days later she reported that none of her family had appeared to notice. Dust piled up, washing accumulated in heaps around the house and no one could find anything but they did not question why or make the connection between the changes in the household and my friend sitting on the sofa with a magazine. Which rather begs the question why we do all this housework in the first place?

I can't take the stike path because I simply couldn't bear to watch the deterioration. I will have to continue to single handedly maintain the desired levels of cleanliness and every so often blow a fuse at which point the children will make a half hearted attempt to tidy something and wait until the storm has passed.

Sunday, 9 May 2010


“I’ve got something to tell you,” she said, purposefully. She paused, biting her lip tentatively. She looked me straight in the eye and then, as if slightly ashamed of her directness, looked down at her coffee which was sitting, half finished, on the table between us.
I wondered with mild curiosity what was coming and I waited for her to speak.
“I’m pregnant,” she said. Then she cast her eyes down again and picked up her coffee, taking a mouthful and swallowing before coiling her fingers around the cup as if to seek comfort from its warmth.
I didn’t speak. I needed a moment to process the information and then to decide how to react. What I thought was immaterial but before I spoke I needed to gauge how she was feeling. As these thoughts motored round my brain, she smiled. Not a half smile that plays around your lips but a full ear to ear grin.
“Isn’t it fantastic?” she said. “Are you pleased for me?”
I relaxed slightly. At least I knew how I was expected to react. I was used to saying the wrong thing, missing the point of a story, failing to recognise carefully crafted signals.
“That’s incredible!” I said, smiling as broadly as I thought would be expected to.
“And I assume from your general manner that this is a good thing?” I tried to keep my tone light, jocular and not give her any indication of the alarm bells that were now sounding unavoidably in my head.
“Well,” she was saying. “I have had a couple of weeks to get used to the idea but, overall, yes. I think it is a good thing.”
“Well then, I’m delighted for you.” I replied, hoping that nothing about my expression would betray my true feelings and the sense of foreboding that was creeping over me.
I stood up and reached across the table to hug her. We didn’t often touch and this, combined with the proximity of the table between us meant that the gesture was more awkward that I had anticipated. After what I hoped was an appropriate time I let go, sat back down and spoke again.
“How has everyone else taken the news? Your parents? Mark?” I could tell instantly that I was the first to know. Whilst part of me felt a childlike pleasure that I had been carefully selected as her confidant over her girlfriends, I knew that it wasn’t really my opinion that she sought. I was a guinea pig, a trial run for the much more difficult confessions to come. She had chosen me because she had anticipated, correctly it seemed, that I could be relied upon to say what she wanted to hear and not to voice the obvious and enormous difficulties that flowed from her predicament. And this made me feel used and unworthy, as if my own thoughts counted for nothing. I
continued to smile.
“Well, good for you!” I said.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010


Why do I find it so hard to concentrate? Is this something that happens to women of a certain age or is it just me? I just can't seem to do it for more than about 15 minutes at a time without allowing myself to become distracted by something more pressing or interesting or both.

I know exactly when I lost my ability to focus. You need a wide and varied set of life skills to be able to look after young children but keeping your attention on one thing for longer than ten minutes at a time is not one of them. Everything you do is in short, manageable bursts and you are rarely called upon to concentrate on just one thing.

When my life was my own, I had no problem keeping on task. Years of study followed by life at a desk meant that I thought nothing of sitting still for two or three hours at a time and working on the same thing. But now? I can't even sit still for a whole episode of "Lewis" and it's my favourite.

I don't think it's all entirely my fault. Since I sat down to write this I have had seven emails, a text message, someone at the door, the washing machine beeping to tell me that it's finished its cycle and I have checked the time four times to make sure that I'm not late for school. How can I ever hope to concentrate with all that going on?

But I have had focusing skills and lost them. I worry for my children who may never develop them at all. I went upstairs yesterday to check on my eldest. She was sitting at her desk doing her homework. Her ipod was playing something loud (but to be fair I studied with music on too), her phone vibrated constantly with texts and calls and she was listening to Coronation Street on iplayer. If she was allowed I'm sure she would have had facebook or msn going as well. How can she concentrate effectively with all that going on around her? She says she can and her school report seems to confirm this but I can't believe it. I suppose she knows no different. In her short life, communication has always been personal to her and instantaneous, something that I never had to factor into my study time.

However, my powers of concentration, meagre though they are, have been superseded by skills that I have a greater need for. I can tell you where anything that you might need can be found in the house. I know where each of my four children has to be at any given moment, what they need to have with them and how they will get both there and back. I can calculate without opening the fridge how many meals I can conjure up before I need to restock. And I can hold an intelligent conversation with two children at the same time without either feeling like I'm not listening. I have no problem focusing. It's focusing on one thing at a time that's the killer!

So what can I do? I need to concentrate on concentrating. I need to be more disciplined and not allow myself to be distracted by all that is going on around me. I need to work on staying on task without allowing my mind to drift on to what I need to be doing next. I need more coffee. Would you like some?

Monday, 3 May 2010


Tomorrow it will be ten years since I skipped out of the corporate world and began my new life at home. I know I blogged about this last year but I'm afraid I'm a sucker for anniversaries. And things look different this year, as I trust they will with every passing twelve months.

And as I thought about this fact, I realised that my life so far splits neatly into four quarters of eleven years each - well, almost.

I don't remember much about my first quarter. Snatches of home life, glimpses of holidays on the English coast. Most of my memories are informed by moving house which we did when I was nine. Things are either before the move or after it. It is a successful way of capturing moments and placing them in context.

My second quarter, secondary school, university and law school, is less hazy. I loved school - and there were four of them to choose from. It was all about learning, giggling and dreaming of things to come. University was a necessity, a means to an end and Law school was sheer hard work. All of them ultimately enjoyable in the main. And in this quarter I think my character was formed, my likes and dislikes crystallised and the direction of the rest of my life determined.

Quarter number three was my corporate existence. Eleven years spent learning my trade and ricocheting between tremendous bouts of confidence and self importance and absolute blind terror.

And then my most recent past. Sleep deprivation, nappies, competitive parenting, sapping of self confidence and utter boredom. It doesn't sound great does it? Well, such is the harsh realities of four children in seven years. There were obviously bright moments and fantastic memories but overall it was one almighty slog.

So, although the maths doesn't quite work I am now entering the next section, the fifth fifth as it were. It is almost as if I am back to where I started. I am oh so eager to learn new things. I am excited about everything I do. I am thoroughly enjoying my children at their current ages. And I am happy in my own skin. I no longer feel the need to try and do the things just because I ought to or because it's expected. People have to take me as they find me and if that fits in with their expectations then that's great.

Someone said to me recently that I was just as they had remembered me being in my twenties but whereas what appeared to be a front then was real now. Perhaps they're right.

And as this anniversary comes and goes would I change anything? Absolutely not. Eleven years as a corporate lawyer was just right. Almost eleven years as a stay at home mum was also right, although it was nearly the death of me. And now I can't help but wonder, what will the next eleven bring?