Favourite song

What is your favourite song?

And why?

My thing to do when I am cleaning is to sing. I sing very loudly and probably very warbly, but I love to sing. I like to pretend I am an opera singer, or a regular singer. I like to sing low down to the floor and high high high as a kite. Deep as a ravine, roaring in an echoey bathroom.

When I was a teenager my cousins recorded me singing loudly while I cleaned the bathroom, when I caught them they fell over themselves giggling as they tried to run away from my brandished sponge.

My mum sings when she was in a good mood. When I was a child, hearing her sing made me feel relieved, it meant she was in a good mood.

Singing while she washed dishes, singing while she changed nappies, singing as she blew raspberries into my baby brother’s chubby little tummy. She used to sing ‘Video killed the radio kill’ which I later learned was ‘Video killed the radio star‘, and ‘Kookobara lived in the old plain tree‘ which was actually ‘Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree‘.

So that is something my sister and I inherited from our mother.

I think my kids may have inherited it too. They both sing very loudly, in public and at home, feeding off each other, instigating each other, louder and louder, opera style, until people turn to look at them and I try to shush them because they might ‘disturb other shoppers’ even though I myself do not mind their singing.

It’s a zeal, I think, for life, when you can sing. Loudly and freely.

The Nugget

PLEASE SHIP TO THE UK, my fingers screamed into my keyboard. Then I really thought about it and realised that no, I do not have £400 to spend on a sofa type thing that sounds like a mini chicken goujon. In addition, I do not have the space to house a sofa-type thing that kids can climb on. Maybe that is why they don’t sell the ‘Nugget’ in the UK, because houses here are so small that we cannot make room for children to play daring games on climbey things.

No we just make do with our own personal sofas, you know, the ones we sit on, for our children to make obstacle courses with and throw themselves off head first in their quests to understand what their little bodies can handle as they grow into human beings and parts of the society.

It doesn’t make any sense, you know, that houses here are so small. The weather is only nice for about 3 months out of twelve, and so the rest of the time most kids spend cooped up indoors because it’s either raining or just too darn cold to layer up in one million layers and slip and slide in the mud outside before coming home and doing a massive clean to remove all traces of the outside world from one’s teeny tiny living room.

BECAUSE HOUSES HERE ARE TINY, did I mention that?

So if we have to spend more time indoors, why not make houses bigger?

The thousand hours outside people will tell you that kids should be out in nature no matter the rain or snow or sleet or blizzard, and I would agree that it does wonders for the mood and the brain and for exploration and for living in general. However, I also still think houses here are too small, and that it’s tough work taking small kids outside in the mud and cold every single day. One gets frustrated with all the cleaning one has to do. Mud and wet grass are awfully messy and gunky things to have on one’s carpets and sofas and all up in the many crevices of baby fat folds.

All this to say, I really want a Nugget.

An expensive sofa type climbey thing that kids can use to jump on, climb over, make forts with and generally be creative. I think my kids would love it. They are ruining my nice sofas with their games and climbing and I think this would get them off my sofas in my teeny house and onto their own climbey things. I also want them to be able to climb and jump about without me feeling like I want to pull my teeth out in frustration. I also think they need to release energy indoors when it’s especially cold and I have no energy to let them roll around in icy mud or poke sticks in icy pools of puddles that are really overflowing drains at the local park.

I can’t justify a Nugget because we are now in a ‘cost of living crisis’, but I want one nevertheless.

I won’t get one.

But I want one.

And I am just putting this out into the ether, as the stars twinkle above me, as the wind roars in the trees, as the cold air drafting through the windows whispers of a tough winter to come.

Secret Toast

He always asked for secret toast. His bedside table stacked with books, the curtains always flung wide open and the windows dangling on the edges of falling off. Surges of winter air when the months were cold and gusts of fresh earthy breeze in spring. In the summer hot air pregnant with the scent of the roses outside and the apple trees burdened with their scarlet load. Tangy and sweet.

Secret toast, melted butter, the thinnest layer of strawberry preserves. Preferably with a cup of tea. Cocoa when he was smaller. Becky would bring it upstairs to him. After he was tucked in bed. After the lights were turned off. After he had brushed his teeth. He would hear the familiar creak of the stairs down the hallway. The squeeze of the floorboard just outside his bedroom door. Secret toast and hot cocoa.

‘Now eat up and go straight to sleep,’ Becky would say, leaving him with it.

She wouldn’t sit and talk to him, or play a game of chess. He never stopped pleading. By the light of the moon, he sat alone in his bedroom eating his secret toast and sipping his warm hot cocoa. Sometimes the stars would twinkle through the large windows of his childhood bedroom. Sometimes the stars would twinkle through the dormer window of his adult attic. Studio attic. Stacks of books everywhere, no shelves to put them in. Stacks of books neatly put away in shelves in his childhood, probably by Becky.

Secret toast at 12am, 1am, 2am, three.

Secret toast with butter and the thinnest layer of the cheapest jam he could find at the local corner shop. Cup of tea with a splash of milk and a tablespoon of sugar. Sweet and strong, like arms guiding him through the tough moments of it all.

The loneliness of it.

But the comfort in its familiarity.

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Cuppa Tea

Are you fussy about your tea?

(or coffee).

First, what do you call your cup of tea? Just tea? Or are you like my mum, ‘Ooooh I need a cuppa,’ as she sits down after a trip to town.

Are you more northern, and need a ‘brew’ to perk you up for the rest of the day?

‘I can’t have anything sweet,’ a friend told me yesterday, ‘else I’ll need a brew with it.’

A brew, I mused, a brew. How homely does that sound!

I call my tea just plain tea. I am not from the south like my mum, because I grew up in another country. I am not from the north, I just live here. My accent is different; I say ‘dinner’ instead of ‘tea’ and ‘lunch’ instead of ‘dinner’. So I just have plain old tea.

My husband makes rubbish tea. Sometimes when he makes me tea I have to wait for him to disappear so I can pour it down the sink and make a fresh one.

Tea bag in, one teaspoon of sugar. Pour boiling water on top, let sit for a good 3-5 minutes to ‘brew’ (maybe Northerners call it ‘brew’ because like their tea strong?), then a glug of milk, a good stir, teabag out, another thorough stir and bob’s your second cousin.

My husband loves my tea. Says I make the best tea he has ever had. I don’t know if that is a ploy to keep me making him tea.

He has to have something sweet with his tea. His favourite biscuit is the chocolate chip shortbread. Mine is a viennese whirl. Yum. Or a viennese chocolate finger.

My mum likes to dunk chocolate digestives in tea.

When we were small, she would give us a biscuit and we could dunk it in her tea.

‘Can I dip my biscuit in your tea?’ we would ask, whenever we saw her sit down with a mug.

How do you like your tea? And do you have something to go with it? Do you like tea with company? Or a book? Or a scenic scene? Or just by yourself on a sunny afternoon or raining evening?

Image Credit: Laura A Farrar

Baby Bathwater

My two children have been insanely poorly this week. High temperatures, breaking 40C, coughing, lethargy, crying, aches and pains and multiple visits to the GP and also A&E. They’re both on antibiotics because their fevers just refused to budge after 5+ days, my daughter fell over and couldn’t stand on her left leg for abut two days…

Then our fridge stopped working.

Our car started making a funny noise and the mechanic said it was the exhaust pipe connector thingy and would cost about £1800 to fix… the car itself is only worth about £1000, if that.

So now we have no car, no fridge, two poorly children with no appetites, and just a general air of ‘What will happen next?!’

There is a saying isn’t there? Something about raining and pouring? It doesn’t rain, it pours?

All the bad things happen at once?

I heard a man say yesterday, ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’ and it shivered me timbers, I tell you. What an awful saying. What, why would you throw the baby out with the bath water?

I have heard this saying multiple times and it’s so horrid, so I did some research and it means something like, don’t discard something valuable with the rubbish.

Just like that man who accidentally threw away his hard drive containing a tonne of bitcoin, estimated to be now worth 150 million pounds, so he has assembled a team of experts to excavate a landfill in order to find it. He certainly did throw the baby out with the bathwater.

But back to that, WHO came up with that saying? Had someone actually done that, so it became a bar by which to judge other similar and not so similar situations? Could we not say something else? Why must it be so horrific and morbid?

Those are my thoughts for today. Unfiltered, unedited, just posting because I need to say something, not that the void needs to hear another yammering voice.

We seem to have become a generation of all talk and no listening.

To Froth

I bought myself a milk frother. Actually in today’s language that isn’t quite true. I ordered myself one. It’s a little machine whisk, the handle of which contains a battery. The whisk part is a small circle of wire with a curly wire going all over it, and it vibrates or spins when you press the button on its handle.

You can froth milk, or cream, or in my case, a teaspoon of instant coffee and a teaspoon of sugar in a tablespoon of boiling water. Froth that right up until its thick and foamy and double the size of the liquid. Then add boiling water and a teensy splash of warmed milk and there you have something delicious.

Something like a cappuccino, but lighter, frothier, tastier and way cheaper. You can have it as many times a day as your jitters will allow.

Early in the morning before your kids wake up and drag you backwards through a hedge.

Late at night when they are asleep and you’re desperately typing away at your laptop keyboard trying to get this big project done.

In the afternoon, at 3pm precisely, when a wave of deep exhaustion slaps you on both cheeks and then parks its bottom on your eyelids. Heavy heavy, limbs like lead, but you sip from that sweet foam and you’re mildly awake again, setting about to finish off the rest of your day.

I don’t know what it is about life that feels so alien.

I want to write stories and describe things and delve into humanity’s mind, I want to talk to people and explore their minds and learn things and thoughts and opinions. But I find myself on the daily repeating a tedium that is almost set in stone. Written into my soul by the generations before me.

Duty? Law?

My grandmother and her paper thin skin and brown, wrinkly hands pop into my mind often.

I was having a conversation with my husband and mother in law about something to do with children growing up and leaving and I mentioned my grandmother and my husband said, out of the blue,

‘She was very lonely, your grandmother, wasn’t she?’

It felt like a punch in the gut. I thought about her, raising three children alone in London in the 70s, divorced and heartbroken, hardworking and efficient. She packed them all off to uni and waved goodbye as they got married and travelled across the globe and country, and there she resided in her big old Victorian house on a side street in South London.

And yes.

She was incredibly lonely.

My sweet, kind, warm, loving grandmother.

And she is no longer with us. In fact, on the 22nd of July it will have been 11 years since she passed away.

And when he said that a deep sadness rose up so suddenly that I could not control myself, so I got up to go to the kitchen under the pretext of clearing the dishes away.

‘Are you doing to cry?’ he asked me.

‘No,’ I said, as the tears gathered thick and fast in my eyes and threatened to spill out onto my cheeks. I shut the kitchen door behind me and began to wash the dishes to compose myself.

My son ran in a few moments later and his eyes were huge, ‘Mama are you sad?’ he said. He had interrupted his play to check on me.

I turned and smiled at him.

‘No sweetheart, I am not sad.’

He searched my face with his eyes for a few moments and then went back to his game, evidently appeased.

And I remembered searching my own mother’s face like he did. In fact, I still do. I search her voice and her eyes and the way her chin moves.

And I thought about how she too, would do the same to her mother. My grandmother.

I don’t know what all this means or how it relates to a milk frother and being overwhelmed.

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Efficient Body

I am trying to lose weight.

I gained about 30kg since both of my pregnancies. In my second pregnancy, rapid weight gain gave me lots of issues. I was mobile, for sure, but so big that it was hard to be active for long. Once I gave birth, the weight did not drop off like it did the first time round.

Sixteen months later, and my body is still clinging on.

Why, body? Why do you need this extra fat? Are you worried you may starve if it slips off?

I joked to my husband that my body is such that if we were in a famine, and everybody became bags of bones, I would probably put on weight.

My body clings to fat in a most efficient manner. If I go into a calorie deficit, I can lose weight consistently for 3 weeks. After that, my body adjusts to this and I plateau or even start going up in weight!

My research tells me that some bodies are more efficient than others, built to last through seasons of no food, built to carry boulders on low energy. I know this to be true. I ate so little for a month, and yet piled on the weights at the gym, leg pressing up to 150kgs, muscles growing stronger, bigger, more defined – and I could be satiated on so little.

But I want to shed these heavy 20kgs. They feel uncomfortable on me. They make my face look unrecognisable, and my legs feel bulky, and I feel like I am dragging my body around. I want to feel free of it, to run fast across a field like before and not worry too much about uncomfortable jiggles and things falling out of place.

I don’t want to lose weight for looks or because I feel insecure. I want to do it for comfort.

Yet when I mention this, the immediate response is wide eyed surprise, and exclamations that I don’t ‘need’ to lose anything and not to ‘buy into’ our appearance-obsessed culture.

I get it.

But since when does wanting to change how your body looks and feels equate to a bad thing?

Why rush to tell someone they don’t need to do something, when they really want to?

Why assume that one wants to change the shape of their body purely due to insecurity or appearance-obsession?

Is it unhealthy to want to lose weight?

If it is unhealthy for some, why make it so everybody feels weird about trying to lose weight, one way or another? Do we apologise for this desire, and assure the ‘Body-Positive’ community that we aren’t mentally ill, and aren’t harming their agenda, but just want to change something for us?

Love Letters #49

Let me set the scene for you.

A candid evening. Why candid? I don’t know. Candles around the drawing room. Laura in her peach dress, flowing gently from her shoulders. Golden curls pinned up; it was the evening, she would unpin them soon. Aunt Abigail had rung the bell for supper. She would join Laura after seeing to her roses in the conservatory.

Laura gently arranged the pillows, setting the tables straight. She was purposeful in every movement, as though she wanted time to tick by slowly.

They had left in a hurry; John had a patient to see to and Mary wanted to go in the carriage so she could bundle the little puddings into their own beds. Hugs and kisses, sloppy ones from the darling angels, a sweet one from Mary, a squeeze on the arm, a murmur that she would see her soon. A hug for her brother, tall and grim, lips taut. He had a patient to get to.

Laura straightened up, sighed. There was a soft knock on the drawing room door. Supper.

‘Come in,’ she said, turning to the window to pull the drapes against the darkness outside.

She heard the door open so she turned around with a smile on her face – which then froze, lips halfway there, dimples just beginning to form. A painful drop in her heart. A throb in her chest. Tightening so she caught her breath. Then she composed herself quickly, one hand on her hair, the other to her neck. Her eyes didn’t meet his, they rested somewhere on his collar.

‘Hello, Tom.’ She smiled properly, moving towards the settee. Something else to look at.

‘Miss Smith.’

Another painful throb. She could die. In fact she would. Right there. That would show him.

‘Miss Smith? Come now!’ she smiled again, ‘How could you?’ a teasing lilt in her voice. She kept her smile, dimples dancing, and sat down, arranging her skirts around her as she did so.

‘Laura, then. I.. how are you?’

‘Oh, very well thank you. John and Mary left only moments ago. Did you not see them?’

‘I did. John was in a hurry to get to old Mrs Pettiforte.’

‘Yes, indeed.’

‘And my sister frazzled, as always.’

She heard, rather than saw, the smile on his face.

‘As is Mary’s way,’ Laura agreed. ‘We were not expecting you for another year,’ she said then, abruptly. Her eyes lifted to his face. He was looking directly at her, into her soul, even. Piercing, green. His face, so familiar, so different. Older, more tired. Drawn. Something in his look compelled her to look away again.

‘I know.’ He opened his mouth to say more. She saw him swallow, hard, search her face until she flushed. She waited for him to give her more information. She didn’t know what to ask. How to ask. She could not ask. So she looked at her sleeve and picked at it.

‘Aunt Abigail and I will have a light supper here by the fire,’ she said, after a short pause. ‘Please join us.’

‘With pleasure,’ he said. She felt the settee bend as he sat down next to her.

Supper arrived, as did Aunt Abigail. Larger than life, sailing into the room and immediately taking command. Fawning over Tom as though he were her own nephew, she took control of the conversation. She enquired after his studies and his work abroad. She lamented on the Medical profession, in turns berating it for taking Tom away from them all for such a long time, and praising him for his medical feats, saving lives and relieving discomfort. Laura was quiet through supper. She kept her eyes on the bread; thick slices with a beautiful golden crust. The butter spread generously on top. Beautifully cut slices of cheese, rich and deliciously fresh tomatoes from the vegetable garden. Her tea was milky and sweet. A nice meal.

It tasted like cardboard in her mouth though. There was a pain in her chest, a lump in her throat. Her eyes glittered brightly in the firelight, her cheeks flushed from the heat of the flames. She took her tea in gulps, but the lump in her throat would not budge. It grew larger as the evening lengthened, as she watched Tom become more comfortable, as she felt his eyes look her way a few times, questioning her silence.

Finally he stood up to leave.

‘A wonderful meal,’ he said, as he bid them goodnight.

‘Laura, see the boy out,’ her aunt said.

She dragged her feet. Smiled at him, followed him out the room and down the hall. He opened the front door and stepped out into the moonlight. A gust of cold air around her, and she shivered.

‘You’d best close that door,’ he warned, ‘no use getting a chill.’

‘It was good of you to come by,’ she told him. She still did not know what he was doing home a year early.

He didn’t say anything, forcing her to look up at him. Tall, dark with the light of the moon behind him. Crisp wintry air, stars alight in the heavens. She couldn’t see his eyes, nor the expression on his face. Yet she knew he was about to say something, for there was dread in his stance. His shoulders sank with heaviness, the joy he had displayed that evening around Aunt Abigail had left him completely.

‘Laura I…’ he began.

He cleared his throat. Then, abrupt, ‘Goodnight. Be warm.’

He turned and walked down the path. She felt as though a pack of wolves ought to have been chasing him, he should race away from her, she should throw her fury at him and shock the calmness out of him. Oh she could scream! His walk was a meander. He even paused to look at the sky, then back at her. Then he raised an arm in salute.

Fingers trembling, she shut the door upon his wave and stalked upstairs to bed. Not a word to her aunt, who Laura heard humming to herself as she marched past the drawing room.

Goodnight, indeed!

In Retrospect

Sometimes after a big massive fight I go away to Retrospect.

And in Retrospect, my glasses become clean. Images are sharper, crisper. The air is tantalising and if I stick my tongue out, I can taste everything. The breeze, the way the birds fly, the blossom petal on a wind current. Everything.

My regret because I pushed it.

My sadness because I pulled at it. Nitpicked it. Wanted to fight at the beach. Get it off my chest. But in doing so, it was hammering his chest.

Don’t go to bed cross, they say. I never do. Maybe I need to visit Retrospect before I try to get things off my chest in the moment.

Retrospect has a fantastic way of making you make mature decisions with your tongue.

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Childhood Baby

I woke up from a horrific dream in which I was living my childhood life as an adult.

My childhood was amazing. There were cockroach infestations, terrible arguments between my parents, and I had a glass thrown at my head once.

By one of them.

But it was amazing.

How can I say this, after listing some of the most traumatic events? I felt loved, a lot of the time. Especially when I was younger. I loved my baby brothers, who are now ‘the boys’, and both tower over me.

I have a lot of good memories, and maybe it’s nostalgia speaking, but I was a happy child.

I do remember a lot of misery and depression, some of which seeps into my adult life, but I was so happy. I loved going to school, I loved my friends. We had so many gatherings and parties, my parents took us to lots of places and really did spend time with us, and enjoyed doing so when they were not stressed. I loved reading all the time and have such fond memories of being curled up behind sofas or under desks with a book. Books tucked behind my textbooks, and once, intently reading a book hidden inside my wardrobe with a torch.

So why was my dream so horrific, then?

I dreamt I was in my childhood home, around the people of my childhood (family, friends), and my baby had gone missing. But I was for some reason supposed to suppress this information. I didn’t know where she was, but we all knew she was no more, and her little sweet voice went ‘mama, mama, mama’ in my head, just how she does in real life. Eventually as the dream progressed I could no longer contain my pain and began to wail in sorrow. The kind of wail where you just cannot help yourself. You lose all sense of anything and give into the hurt.

At that precise moment, my eyes flew open, and it was 6am.

Staggering out of bed, eyes barely open, still nursing that terrible, searing pain, I stumbled into my babies’ room, and there she was in her cot.

Snoring away.

Little fists curled slightly on the mattress.

Long eyelashes dusting the soft roundness of her cheeks.

She has been so tough this past week. Clingy, moany baby. ‘Mama, mama, mama’ all the time, tugging on my legs to be picked up, not sure what she wants.

But today I feel reminded to be so incredibly grateful for her, and am looking at it in a different light. Oh, let the baby be clingy. She needs you!

I have just finished typing this and can hear her little voice, thick with sleep, saying ‘mama’.

So off I go to squeeze her!