On Bakewell Tarts

I think I am growing old. Folks, I ate a bakewell tart and did not gag. That is a sure sign of my advancement in age.

It means my tastebuds are mellowing, or falling off, or whatever tastebuds do when they get old. Where you begin to enjoy the taste of things that used to revolt you in your youth.

Olives? Can’t get enough of them.

Marzipan? Used to detest it and now I quite like it washed down with a mug of solid builder’s tea.

And now bakewell tarts.

Horrid tasting things, bit like those cinnamon chewing gums that Halls makes.

But I had just finished a mammoth cleaning session, was sweaty and tired, bit shaky because I realised that while my kids were happy and fed, I had forgotten to feed myself. Went rummaging in the cupboards for something quick to eat, shot of energy so to say.

And I saw those Kipling’s bakewell tarts looking back at me with their one-eyed innocence. The one eye being the glacé cherry on top.

And I picked one up and popped it into my mouth…. and it was SO BLOODY GOOD. My mouth immediately watered for more. So I had a cup of tea and two more!

SO GOOD.

What foods did you hate but grew to enjoy?

This is what a Bakewell tart looks like. The base layer is shortcrust pastry, and then there is jam, followed by frangipane. On top is icing and a glacé cherry. life

Tomorrow is a new day.

Tonight, I struggled to put my two year old to sleep. Oh he was such a cheeky monster. I was at the end of my tether. Feeling irritated. Touched out.

Like I was about to explode into a million pieces of piercing anger, all directed at his little baby face with those big eyes and those rosy cheeks.

But I did not do it. I breathed. I thought of the sunset. Gleaming through the room, burning through the curtains.

I lay there still as a statue. Still as stone. Dead.

He touched me on my arms and kissed my wrists and climbed all over me and chattered away. Counting things, talking about things we did that day, asking to kiss ‘mum-mum’ (what he calls his little sister) – who was soothing herself to sleep with her thumb in the crib next to me.

When he finally fell asleep it was 10:30pm and there was no time for anything.

I took myself to the shower which turned into a bath, because the plug found its way to the hole and the bath started filling up.

I saw an unopened face mask beside the bath, the paper ones that you peel and place on your face and let whatever serum they soak it in do your magic. It has holes for your eyes and nose and mouth. I thought, why not. Been wanting to do this for months. Catching sight of my reflection in the bath taps made me shudder. Horror movie things.

I lay back in my unplanned bath and just felt tired. Guilty. Defeated. Like a failure. I felt like I failed my child because I did not manage him adequately. We did not do much today.

My legs felt sore and I just did not feel anything emotional.

Just numbness.

Couldn’t stay in the bath too long so I hauled myself out and … here I sit.

I don’t know why I couldn’t stay long. I couldn’t relax. My mind feels like it’s teeming with thoughts but I simultaneously have nothing to do.

My babies are sleeping.

Tomorrow is a new day.

Tomorrow I will do better.

It is not…

Hello.

It is not anti semitic to oppose apartheid.

It is not anti semitic to oppose zionism, which stands for ethnic cleansing and brutal murder.

It is not anti semitic to condemn the ripping apart of small children bodies. Children who do not have air raid shelters or air raid sirens. Children who can be seen on video screaming in terror every time an airplane flies above their house. Children who can be seen in literal shreds.

I have seen children whose heads have been blown apart, pieces of their bodies hanging together by shreds of skin.

It is not anti semitic to oppose the strongest army in the middle east, to oppose a propaganda machine which imprisons the natives of a land in favour of white european settlers.

This is apartheid. It is happening again.

Why did we overcome Hitler, only to allow the trauma of a past generation to inflict horrendous crimes on a new one?

I support all Jews and condemn antisemitic attacks, but I condemn Israel severely. I condemn its propaganda. I condemn its war crimes on Palestinians, on their children, on their livelihood. I condemn its apartheid.

Enough is enough.

Why are people so afraid to speak out?

Because Israel and its propaganda has seeped into every part of our lives.

This is not a religious issue. If it was, Christian Palestinians would not be massacred along with their muslim brothers and sisters.

This is a human rights violation.

To say there are two sides is to be wilfully ignorant of the truth. The truth is that Israel has a 500,000+ army, an iron dome which deflects most attacks, while Palestine has nothing. Palestinian refugees cannot even return to the villages from which they were expelled, and Israeli law states that only people of Jewish religion can apply to build homes and can take over ‘abandoned’ land… land which Palestinians are not allowed to return to in the first place.

This is not a conflict or a clash. This is not an equal war. This is the same thing that happened in South Africa.

Wake the fuck UP.

Preordained?

When I was 11 years old, I prayed for my husband. I prayed hard for him, every single day, for weeks on end.

I wasn’t praying to GET a husband. Or to find one or to obtain one. I was praying for D____. My current husband.

He was not sick, I was not married. I did not pray for him like old women pray for people in books.

I just got on my knees daily and said, ‘Oh dear God, please please let me marry D____ when I grow up.

Just like that.

I have no idea why I did that. I knew him since I was 4 years old. He was just my friend’s older brother. He had this huge smile and these really white teeth, and the blackest hair you ever saw.

When I was eleven he ceased to be just someone I saw from time to time. I was so in awe of him that I could barely look at him. And so I totally ignored him, did not look at him, and just prayed every single day…

Dear God, please, please let me marry D____ when I grow up.

And then, just as suddenly as the crush overwhelmed me, it was gone. I grew up. Grew older. Grew taller. My prayers were peppered with other dreams, possibly equally as fleeting. I moved across the globe. I fell victim to dastardly plots. Miserable schemes. I obtained an education. I did regretful things. I totally forgot about him.

And then I married him. It was a sudden thing too. It felt pre-ordained. I always tell him it is that big smile of his. The minute he smiled at me like that, when we were both adults, my heart did a funny funny thing in my chest.

It was a courtship and a marriage. We were both so young and so…. small.

We have a photo book of every year of our marriage and in our first year, 7 years ago, we looked like children. Heck, we WERE children.

Green as green can be.

A few months into the marriage I was standing somewhere, and he was walking towards me, and he smiled that big smile of his, and suddenly, as though it were an echo through time, I heard my own little voice say, ‘Dear God, please please please let me marry D______ when I grow up.’

I was pretty shaken up to be honest. I had completely forgotten about that episode in my life. Some things are fated to be.

This year was a pretty tough year on our marriage. When I wrote my 7 Year Anniversary post in January, I had no idea what was about to implode. We are not a soppy pair. We are pretty regular and don’t really do public displays of affection. I think I might have put D____ on a pedestal a bit. Something which has certainly crumbled this year. When you forget each other, negative things are bound to creep into a marriage.

I think, in my hopeful and growing mindset, that I finally understand what those old couples who have been together for decades and decades mean when they say ‘love takes work, love means sometimes turning a blind eye, love is choosing each other despite the heartbreak and pain.’

Some things are preordained.

I don’t know what possessed me to pray relentlessly for my husband.

But I guess and hope I will be doing that until I die. Pray for him, that is. In the way old women pray for people. YOU know, like in books. Pray for their souls and whatnot.

Unless he does something truly truly awful and he knows what it is already as I have vividly described the scenarios to him.

Dear God, please please please let me marry D_______ when I grow up. And let this marriage work.

Do you pray? Do you believe things are preordained?

New Chapters

25th March 2021

I never sugarcoat things. I don’t think I ever have. If I am happy I am sunshine and if I am not I am a cloud. It could be a fluffy cloud but the shine is dimmed as it pushes through.

I guess we can all be like that.

When the health visitor asks me how I am finding motherhood now that I have two children I say, ‘Well, I find myself looking forward to brighter days.’

Enjoy this time, they all say. Relish the cuddles.

And I am.

But I am also feeling low and resentful.

And I know it is not because I am ungrateful.

It’s simply because I have some mild form of depression. And it manifests in resentment and a wistful recollection of the days before I carried and birthed my children.

My body is unrecognisable and I always see women say this and think ‘yeah, duh’ but

but…

But

But

BUT

When it actually happens to you, it’s like a punch in the gut.

HOLY shit. Look at that sag. I DON’T HAVE A BUTT ANYMORE.

And I spend my days covered in baby vomit and when I wear makeup I kiss my baby girl and there on her face is the faint glitter of my bronzer.

29th April 2021

I wrote the above a month ago and had to stop because my then 9 week old had woken up and began to cry. Dismally. And then life happened. But what a difference one month makes postpartum.

You can go from feeling overwhelmed and out of depth to feeling happy and hopeful and looking forward to the future in four short weeks.

I don’t know why I am publishing this post. All I did was complain!

But it was interesting to open it up one month later and read it with a very different mindset. I don’t feel like that anymore.

I don’t feel resentful! I was not in love with my new baby back then but now I am so completely in love with her that it hurts to breathe! I remembered I felt the same way with my first little boy. Took some time for those postpartum clouds to clear away and once they did, wow, the love exploded.

Those brighter days I yearned for have arrived. I still don’t get much sleep at night, I still have to feed round the clock and we are DROWNING in nappies because my 2.2 year old is still not potty trained. But I seem to have more energy and zest for life.

I am in a new chapter and it’s unlike any of the old chapters. There are turns in this road that I never would have anticipated. They feel like wistful turns, like I will look back at them sadly and knowingly in years to pass, and wish that I had lingered longer on their gnarled and wonderful corners.

That’s all I have to say really.

Anniversary

Yesterday was our seven year anniversary and we both forgot.

I don’t know what we were doing. It was a Monday so D was working. In his office. Slash second bedroom. Slash nursery.

I was downstairs with baby. Who is not a baby anymore. He was sliding his teddies down his little slide in the living room and I was sitting on the sofa trying to get work done. And getting interrupted, so really nothing was done. It’s ok, I told myself, as I got up for the millionth time to do something or other, I will work once he is in bed.

Then it was lunchtime. For baby. I gave him leftover pasta from the night before. And then hustled him upstairs for his nap. As he fell asleep, I did too. The exhaustion of being 8 months pregnant, working, caring for a toddler and doing the million other things people have to do just took over.

I woke up at 3pm, and baby was still sleeping, so I stumbled groggily and in a bad MOOD to the office slash nursery slash second bedroom where D was still working. I grumbled about not doing any work, dragging my laptop towards me. We started talking about things one talks about when they are parents and trying to make a life together.

And then five minutes later a small voice called from the other room, ‘Mamaaaa! Mamaaa!’

We laughed, because it’s the first time he has done that. I got up and went to him. He was sitting up on the bed, smiling at me.

D closed the office slash nursery slash second bedroom door, as he had a meeting.

I sat on the floor, feeling heavy and deflated. Baby ran around the bedroom making a mess and being joyful. He grabbed all his books from the windowsill and made a little hill out of them which he attempted to climb. Then he picked one out and spread it open on his little legs and began to read in gibberish. Some real words made their way in there too.

‘Ann done!’ he clapped for himself, slamming the book shut. All done.

My friend called. I debated whether to answer. I had to work, I had to cook dinner, I had to sort out the baby clothes, I had to clean the room.

I answered. We hadn’t talked in weeks, so it was a good catch up.

Then it was 6pm. The room was messy. I’d been playing with the little one. D finished his meeting and took over. I was still on the floor, feeling achey and tired.

I pulled myself together, got up. Went downstairs. Made cauliflower cheese and mashed potatoes, with a side of fish fingers. D and our little came down, tidied up downstairs. We had dinner. We cleaned up. Baby boy ran around. D played tag with him. Then he began running up and down the stairs, in the slow and stumbling way little toddlers do. Lots of chuckling ensued.

Then it was bedtime. Wash, brush, PJs, books. Left him with his dad, closed the door. Sat down to work. Baby boy crying for 15 minutes straight before I went in there. He was sitting on his dad’s chest, looking at me with tears in his eyes.

‘What’s wrong?’ I asked.

‘He wants you,’ D said, looking drained.

Mama.’

Ok. It wasn’t my turn to put him to bed so I felt stressed out and irritable. NO WORK was done. That means an all nighter which, in my state, I am not equipped for.

‘Ok.’ I said. ‘Let’s switch.’

‘Are you sure?’ D asked.

‘We can’t have him sobbing himself into a state. He won’t sleep. Then we’re really screwed.’

I put him to bed. It took two hours. At 10pm I stumbled out again, and sat at my laptop. I tried to work until 2:45am. Not much got done. I felt groggy and achey.

At 3am I fell into bed. D was sleeping soundly.

At 7am the alarm went off. D got up in a rush to start a meeting.

At 8am he popped his head downstairs where I sat, trying to work while the little ate porridge around me.

‘Hey’, he said, ‘We were married seven years ago yesterday.’

‘Is that so.’ I said, absently.

‘Yeah. Have to run.’

Up he goes to another meeting. Tap tap tap I go on my laptop.

Crash, goes something in the kitchen. The little one is pulling saucepans out the cupboard.

I think I will let him.

Can you say no?

Can you decline a wedding invitation, a request to go dancing, an enquiry about your ballet shoes?

Can you say no to the girl who asked you to watch her sister while she spends some time with her boyfriend?

Can you say no to the woman who wants to go cycling with you… but you really want to be alone?

Can you say no… when someone says they will pay you £2.50 an hour to teach their son another language?

Can you?

I couldn’t.

I couldn’t say no and I was told all the time.. SAY NO. Say NO. No.

No, I said, to those telling me to say no. No, I can’t say no.

Even though I just did.

Say no to the man who says ‘come and see me, be brave.’

Alarm bells clanging and mouth dry and heart wringing in fear.

Say no, Lenora, please.

Say no.

Just say no.

But I did not say no.

Sometimes I think I have healed but then I wake up dripping in sweat, heart palpitating, from a dream in which I am saying yes to all the things I do not want to do. I am frantic and anxious and running away but I cannot escape him, he has his sharp claws dug deep into my back.

It’s been eight years.

I said yes for two years and then one day I said no and it took all my strength to do it.

And it took me seven months to stop hyperventilating everytime my phone rang.

Took eight months for the severe stomach pains to go away.

It’s been eight years since I said that final no, and I still dream I can’t say no.

So please say no.

Let your children say no when they’re little, so that when they’re big and need to say no, they should be able to.

Say no.

To the right people.

It’s okay.

Trees

When she doodled, she always found herself doodling the same thing.

It started off as a trunk. A trunk of a tree. Usually she had two browns, so light brown for the outline, the branches, and then in with dark brown, shading the sides and adding rough texture to the branches. And then the leaves. Hundreds and hundreds of them. But she would not sit there and painstakingly draw every leaf.

It was different each time. Different, but the same.

With pencils it was clouds. With coloured pencils, it was still clouds, but lighter ones sat under darker ones and shadows filled every nook and cranny, and soon you could see the sunlight filtering in between the gaps.

Sometimes she had paint sticks.

If you don’t know what those are, they are fat little sticks that you twist out like lipstick and it’s some sort of crayony paint that dries quickly and is washable. It’s meant for toddlers, and she worked with toddlers.

When she had paint sticks she would swirl her trees. Swirl her trunk and her branches, the roots would swirl into the swirly grass, little circles of never-touching harmony, each colour giving way to the other until there was a kaleidoscope of colour and movement. Perpetual movement. That was a masterpiece, she would think. Better than the meticulous shadows of careful doodles.

Sometimes little effort yeilds great return.

And then chubby little hands would come along and add their special touches.

Dots and spots. Spatters and stains. Smudges and scribbles. But in each one was a proud smile, a toothless grin, a pair of large brown or blue or green or grey eyes in complete contentment.

And she drew so many trees, so very many. And so many hands would, sure as rain, come along, and deck them for conquest.

Trees that if they were to spring to life, would be tall and harmonious with the earth and skies. They would be of all colours and hues. They would drip with life and light and laughter, they would not fit in with the world but they would stand out and all who saw them would be in awe. Purples and blues and yellows and oranges, the sun beamed from the cracks in their rough trunks. The dreams danced between their branches, and the jewels of hope dripped and glittered in all colours from their branches.

And she would always doodle her trees, let them set their roots between her deft fingers, and grow tall and wide, spreading their branches through the world. Business and law and retail and marketing and publishing and writing and artistry and medicine and dentistry and order and dance and motherhood and fatherhood and leadership and travel and thought… it did not matter where they went or what they did.

What mattered was the roots that sprung from between her fingers.

Amy Giacomelli

Thank you and Goodbye, 2020.

Do you have New Year’s resolutions this year?

I don’t.

Well, except to survive. And finish my work before the baby pops out. I am increasingly worried I won’t be able to, as taking care of a toddler who now NEEDS to be challenged…. is, well.. CHALLENGING. Lol.

My husband and I watched Death to 2020 on Netflix last night after baby was in bed. We also shared a pizza. That is now called ‘date night’. The show is basically Charlie Brooker’s Yearly Wipe, but not on the BBC anymore, so the budget is much bigger. It’s a great thing to watch, and makes what has been a taxing year on many seem a little more light hearted. It got a few laughs out of us, and some sighs.

I have come to understand now why Britons spend much of winter in a state of ‘waiting’. See folks, I was born in this country, but brought up in another. A hot country. Where the sun beamed all year around and when a cloud was spotted, even a far away teeny tiny wisp of a thing, one prayed for rain. Where the ground was parched and the dust settled the moment you wiped it off a surface. Rain was a joyous celebration. All I knew of British weather was the summertime. Luscious, plentiful greenery and heady long days, the best of British weather.

Ten years ago my parents returned to their country, and brought me back with them. So it took me ten years to develop a sort of cold disdain towards winter. I used to love winter. Squelchy leaves underfoot, beautiful frosty mornings, warmth of an evening around a kitchen table with a hot drink, snow and ice and perpetual grey. Now I detest it. I think it might have something to do with me having moved to a tiny little ghost town called Crewe, which according to some, does not even exist and this is all a dream.

Some people are very proud of Crewe. It has a nice history of being a railway town, the biggest one up North, where they made the trains.

Now it is bedraggled and in need of some love, but all it gets is… well economic disappointment. Year in year out. And four years living here has really taken its toll on my soul. I wanna get out, folks. I WANNA GET OUT. I hope I do! Some say one never escapes Crewe. If that is true… shiver me timbers.

Anyway, as I said, a lot of Britons spend winter waiting for summer, and that is what I am doing this year. I want summer. I want heat. I want warmth in my heart and soul. I want family. I want the heat of the sun on my cheeks and burning in my hair. I want lots of things.

But I also want to learn how to be grateful for what I have.

That’s a huge lesson that I learnt this year, but one that still needs a lot of practise by me.

Be grateful.

Have a roof over your head? Heating? Food in the fridge? DESSERT? A job!? A family? A little boy who loves life? Lots of family? People who care?

BE GRATEFUL.

So that is my resolution for this year, then. To remember to be grateful and thankful and contented. To stop wanting things that are not meant for me just yet. To remember all the good things I do have, and hold them dear.

Now then. That was a good exercise in thinking about things. It’s also snowing here in Crewe for the first time since November last year. That’s quite nice. I shall enjoy that a bit.

Thank you and goodbye, 2020.

On the United Kingdom of Great Tiers

Folks the UK has gone mad. Well it feels like it has at any rate. Apparently food shortages now constitute of lack of availability of essential foods like lettuce and citrus fruits. Whatever will we do!?

I feel like the news outlets are contributing more to this mass hysteria and it makes me laugh, whilst simultaneously shaking my head in irritation. It’s like they go around finding random people in an otherwise well-stocked supermarket and asking them if they haven’t been able to find anything, and the one random guy goes ‘Er, yeah, the lettuce shelf is EMPTY. EMPTY, can you see? My wife is waiting for lettuce at home and THERE IS NONE LEFT.’

And then they pan over the shelves groaning under the weight of a million other foods, and finally rest the camera on a couple of empty plastic bins that once contained lettuce but now do not.

WhaTEVER will we DO!?!?

Now everybody wants to rush to Tesco to buy toilet roll and rice and eggs, for some reason, because doing their massive Christmas shop was not enough, somehow. And nobody is going to risk not having toilet paper because last time they ended up using lettuce instead and now there isn’t even that to fall back on.

Anyway it feels to me like our prime minister is a prime buffoon, who cares mostly about being popular hence the constant teetering on the edge of various rules and turning back on himself. He doesn’t know whether he is coming or going, to be honest, and reassures the public that he does in fact use a hairbrush when we know this is a lie, as he has been caught on camera mussing up his ridiculously blond hair… I think he likes looking like a deranged old owl.

London is now in Tier 4 which means total lockdown but that has not stopped people from the South of the UK travelling up to Tier 2 areas such as York for a quick pint, and getting arrested for doing so. Is that just an entitled attitude that southerners have? Because when us lot up North (I say ‘us lot’ but I am really a Southie by birth and heritage oh dear even though I do live up North) were in higher tiers of lockdown none of us took a jolly down South for a pint, did we? Well I didn’t hear of any of us getting arrested for doing so, at any rate.

Anyway I don’t care about Christmas being cancelled. I am heavily pregnant and have a lot of work to do in the 5 weeks before I give birth. I am so heavy, the heaviest I have ever been in my entire life. I am swollen and in pain and just generally feeling bLARGH. So I focus on other things to distract me from my discomfort and that tends to be the news, work and of course a busy toddler.

I just want to have my body back to be honest, and want coronavirus to piss off. I want to be able to lie on my back without feeling like I am suffocating and just… oh dearie me. It’s not a good time for much, folks, but it’s as good a time as we will get so we better make the most of it.

What are your Christmas plans?