Saturday, 2 October 2010

See You Jimmy!

Week 5 of the new school year and already we've reached the moment I've been dreading since my kids were born, 'creating an outfit', in this case for 'international day'. I can't sew and hate it anyway, have no bits of material, buttons or trimmings hanging around like my mother and to make matters worse I only have the weekend to make it, as the fact that they were dressing up mysteriously passed me by, despite avidly reading newsletters and curriculum updates.

As my dad pointed out, everyone dresses the same these days, so we're really looking at traditional or stereotypical ideas of foreign dress, which could be a bit of a minefield. A friend has loaned us a scottish tartan hat, which is great as I'm Scottish by birth, but it comes attached to a mad See U Jimmy style ginger wig (remember Russ Abbott?). So I risk offending genuine Scots by suggesting they're all ginger and crazy and the redheads in the class by suggesting that redheads are usually Scottish nutcases. Not helped by the fact that as soon as my son dons the tartan cap, he starts reeling around in a drunken manner trying to do a scottish accent. Not at all pc!

The dilemma now is how far do I take it, how much effort should I go to? Leave it at the hat and risk looking like we couldn't be bothered or go the whole hog and risk looking like we tried too hard and possibly make him the laughing stock of the school? I have found a red kilt in a charity shop which he says he doesn't mind wearing and I can cut a sporran out of a furry bag I bought (see I can be creative) but I have a terrible fear of making him look silly. Mind you if anyone can carry it off, he can, he loves dressing up and he'd probably make everyone laugh clowning around. One thing's for sure, by the end of the day, the whole school will know who he is and me by default. Are we brave (heart) enough? After all Sean Connery looks his most masculine and hunky in a kilt...and if anyone takes the mick I can give them a Glaswegian kiss!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Happiness Is A Beautiful View

In my line of business, the spiritual and new age industry, happiness and the pursuit of fulfillment is big business. I only have to glance through this month's copy of Kindred Spirit to see a myriad of ads offering healing, spells, readings, classes, retreats, coaching and regressions all dedicated to helping the recipient find themselves and their path in life. Reading the National Trust magazine I spotted an article entitled 'Simple Pleasures' which was an interesting read. They had asked a selection of fairly highbrow people, what their simple pleasure was. Quite an interesting variety: knitting, cooking, clever twists of grammar (whatever floats your boat!!), a scenic place, architecture, a new experience. The article quotes research by the New Economics Foundation which says that well being 'combines five factors: good relationships with friends and family; physical activity, particularly outside; alertness to the world around, especially its beauty; continued learning of anything from a skill to a subject; and last, altruism'. No surprise really then that illnesses like depression are now being diagnosed in children as young as 3, with family relationships more under stress than ever, with extended families often living quite a distance from each other; outside activities on the decline thanks to computers and television; connection with the world around seems to be unnecessary as kids (and many adults) immerse themselves in computer games and chat rooms hour after hour and as for altruism- forget it, although the schools seem to be trying to educate our children now how to be a good member of a community and the novel idea of considering others feelings as well as your own.

For me, one of the many things that makes me happy is a beautiful view. Before we had children we would regularly escape to a farm cottage tucked away up a rugged hillside in west wales, that had a beautiful panoramic view over the valley below. I used to love to see how the sky and fields changed with the light and the weather, it gave me such inner peace and I always cried when we had to leave. Now, with young children, rain and mud aren't so appealing, but I did pay extra this summer for a caravan with a sea view, so once again I could gaze at the ever changing view.

This need of mine for a view makes moving house very difficult too, we live opposite an open field with trees and whilst not the prettiest view in the world, it beats looking out at other houses. So whenever we consider moving and I look at what we would have to sacrifice, unless we win the lottery and can afford the sort of house with the sweeping vistas I crave, I prefer to stay put. And if I feel the need for more scenery I just pop up to Cliveden , our nearest National Trust property, which always has the power to uplift and soothe with its beauty and spectacular views.

West Wales


Saturday, 18 September 2010

September Resolutions

We're 2 weeks into the new school year and I'm beginning to settle into this new rhythm of life, although it's been hard getting up early and having to get out of the house by a certain time. No more leisurely breakfasts in our pyjamas. Plus I've felt the pressure to look half way decent at the school gates, which for me means washing my wild bed head hair every day and taming it with straighteners into the desired bob. It doesn't help that my son has the infuriating habit of putting his school bag, sweater, lunch bag whatever, down somewhere obscure, sparking a mad last minute search guaranteed to send my blood pressure soaring. Our recent burglary has added to the rush, as I am now locking our bedroom door, so that the last remaining computer won't be taken. Of course, no sooner do I lock it, than I realize I need a sweater, or my shoes, so I guess this habit isn't going to last long. Luckily a good friend lives opposite the school and I can park in her driveway, meaning I can sail up the road with 2 minutes to spare knowing I won't have to join in the bun fight for parking spaces!

It seems that September, perhaps more than January feels like the start of a new year. Seeing the children bright and shiny in their new uniforms, all pristine and fresh, seems to spark something in the mums. I've lost count of how many friends have said they're going to start a new fitness regime, diet, club etc. and I too feel the desire to change something or start something new. Thoughts of joining a choir, learning to swim more proficiently pass through my mind, but realistically I still don't have the time to take on too much at the moment with my website and daughter not at nursery until January, so I turn to more manageable goals. Getting more organized is one that leaps to the forefront. Before I had kids I was very organized, a bit messy maybe, but nothing like the paralysing panic that can hit me now when I realize I have no idea where I put that very important document, my car keys are missing again, meaning a search through all my pockets and the laundry basket, that safe place which I thought would be a good idea is now a mystery to me and I'm drowning in clutter and paperwork waiting to be sorted. This chaos was one of the reasons we were burgled, stuff on show, easy pickings, the lesson I've taken from this is to be more mindful in everything I do, hard when you've got children twittering in stereo. Have I locked the car, put the handbrake on (another thing I forgot to do!) do I need to make a note of where I've put things or a to do list? Plus now I have my son's school life to oversee, homework, letters home (actually emails now), things to take in, things to bring home, party invites to reply to, money to pay and this week items of uniform to chase up or give back to their rightful owner! So for his sake I need to get a grip, I can't have him being the only boy in the class who's forgotten his soft toy ( cue mad dash home through rush hour traffic!) or getting into trouble because I've lost his homework. This one change, will I'm sure make a big difference to my life and my blood pressure and I'm sure everyone is going to appreciate the new calmer, highly organized me.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The Icing On The Cake...Not!

I was very excited today to be delivering my children to the hands of a friend's nanny so I could prepare for their joint party tomorrow. I imagined a few hours icing the cakes, and then some me time, read a book, maybe even have a nap. But no everything these days seems to take forever, like wading through treacle, to the point that the clock seems to be racing round and I'm moving backwards!.
 Now Polly has a pretty pink butter icing confection topped with flowers and a 'hello kitty' decoration. Edwards' a garish red iced cake with a wobbly spider's web and a spiderman figure in pride of place. Plus various shades of fairy cake. What I hadn't allowed for is the virtual impossibility of creating your own red icing, especially butter icing, the best I could do was a muddy dark pink with the help of some black colouring. With the vision of some of the more 'macho' boys at the party giggling at Edward's pink cake, I chucked half a ton of butter icing in the bin. I also discovered more food colouring means yuckier taste (maybe that's why I hate shop cakes). Eventually I managed a passable red with glace icing mixed with red and a dash of black food colouring. Piping the spider's web proved tricky too for my not so steady hands. All in all it certainly isn't cheaper to make your own cakes any more, especially if you factor in the enormous amount of time, mess and not inconsiderable stress, but looking at them now I can see the labour of love and I hope my children will appreciate that.

Spiderman Cake

Hello Kitty Cake

The whole party thing has been quite stressful, probably on a par with delivering a seminar at work or attending a gruelling meeting, which just goes to prove what I've always believed, if you take away situations that lead to stress, you'll just create stress around other, more trivial situations. Maybe it is part of the human condition-we need stress, if there's no anxiety in my life, I'll invent some. Have I got enough presents for prizes and party bags? Am I going to be able to control 20 odd children enough to get them to play games? Will enough people turn up? But all the effort will be worth it when I see the kid's faces as they enjoy a good old fashioned party with homemade cakes and retro party games followed by a bit of a boogie to high school musical. I might even have fun after a couple of shots of fizzy pink wine!

Friday, 29 January 2010

Seize The Day

I've finally got around to transferring my camcorder footage onto dvd (burning as us techies call it) and watching them has stirred up quite a lot. There's the usual surprise at how much the children have grown, tinged with the sadness that they'll never be that way again, plus the regret that they looked so cute and I don't think I fully appreciated how adorable they were. On top of that there was some unexpected footage of my recently deceased and much loved and missed grandmother. This upset me hugely because it was so fleeting (not to mention wobbly and out of focus), why didn't I take more shots and linger longer? I've tended to flick around quickly just getting brief shots of everything, but on watching it back, I realize I want to see more, so note to self to keep camera panned for longer.
The particular footage of my Grandma was during a family outing, which I remember as a very special end enjoyable day, but often I look back at the film and know that I didn't make the most of that day or hadn't been fully aware of lucky and happy I was.
The other thing I realized is that it's not just the special occasions which are so captivating, the ordinary everyday footage-having breakfast, bathtime,children's chatter is actually more precious, as it gives us a snapshot of life at that time, how the children's voices sounded, what decor and furniture we had, hairstyles, clothes etc. etc.
This was brought more sharply into focus by seeing a friend's footage of childhood cine film which her husband had had transferred to dvd. It was amazing to see her as a child, plus the clothes, food ,cars,hairstyles of the time. I found it incredibly moving to see shots of parents and grandparents who were no longer in her life. It is such a shame that it is often only in hindsight that we fully appreciate what we had. For a lot of people sudden death, illness or dramatic lifestyle change brings this sharply into reality, but I am determined this year to try and count my blessings and appreciate every ordinary day.