Friday, 22 February 2013

Feelgood Friday

Since this week is half term, I haven’t done any creative writing – or had time to get deep and meaningful for the blog. So instead here’s some gratuitous picture of the cute puppies we visited this week at granny’s house – and a few of the kids enjoying Nausicaa in Boulogne.

'A person who has never owned a dog has missed a wonderful part of life.'
~Bob Barker (taken from
While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.
~Angela Schwindt (taken from The Quote Garden).
Enjoy the weekend - back to school on Monday!!!


Friday, 15 February 2013

Polly, put the kettle on.

This week I have mostly been thinking about exhaustion. As we head towards half term it seems the kids are just about coping. But the dreaded V&D bugs are back again nipping at the heels of our nippers. And every mother is praying that she can make it to half term without catching the lurgy. A week away from school, while the germs die down, is what we all need – kids, mothers – and probably the teachers too.

Poor Polly needs to look after herself
As a parent it’s easy to run yourself into the ground. If you’ve given up a high flying career you might find yourself re-directing your overachiever angst at the ‘job’ of parenting. And there’s so much to work at – impeccably polite children with good grades, a whole range of extra-curricular activities and after school clubs to succeed at, nutritious meals to plan and cook, perfect play dates and seriously good birthday parties to arrange. Just typing that wears me out.
I’m just as guilty. I’m currently trying to plan the month of June. I have a kiddo birthday, a school reunion and a barn dance I want to cram in. I need to sort out babysitters, relatives coming and going and exactly where I am going to be when. Planning June? It’s only February – have I gone completely mad?
This week alone I’m trying not to forget about any of the following: French club, a Fair-trade coffee morning, Pancake Day, Chinese New Year celebrations, non-uniform day, a sleepover after a party, swimming, Valentine’s Day, ballet (including the return of the teacher’s hair clip) and a toy sale. Meanwhile our home looks like a tornado has blown through it, the dishwasher needs a colonic irrigation and I still can’t decide whether to keep my new ASICS.
It’s times like this when I realise if I don’t look after myself as much as I look after other people I’m going to end up in a straightjacket. I’m aware that I need an eye test, a scale and polish at the dentist and –whisper it – an intimate visit with the nurse so I don’t go the way of Jade Goody. My shoulders are screaming out for a massage too – I’m only a step away from asking total strangers to give me a bit of a rub.
Take a break Polly
But it’s such a taboo, to say out loud, you need to take some ‘me time’ (and probably asking strangers to massage you is also a bit beyond normal). I always think it makes me sound like a spoiled housewife who worries more about her manicure than her offspring. What is it about us mums that makes us think we should be last on the ‘things to do’ list? I blame, oh, myself…
Feeling a bit downtrodden as I am, my creative writing task this week was a response to a request for gritty’ writing. I tapped into this need to perpetuate the myth of a perfect family life and added some unsavoury details. Within the story a mother of twins has to face the inconvenient truth that she’s will have to give up one child, because of what has happened to the other. But she doesn’t want to admit that, just yet. And sometimes, like the mother in my story, we all need to shut the rest of the world out (who cares if the house is a mess, and that there is so much dirty washing the basket won’t close).
So I’m recommending that instead of just reserving one day in March to celebrate Mothers, we make it a whole month of the Mum. Put the kettle on and your feet up; attend a yoga class like the one my lovely cousin Ali Masterman is running at Triyoga (23rd Feb, 2.30pm). It’s designed to relax, restore and rejuvenate worn out mums. Or get a date in the diary for the tempting G and Tea at the Hotel Du Vin (they put your alcohol in china cups – why didn’t I think of that?), which is exactly what my nearest and dearest mummies are currently working on sorting out a date for. In short, cut yourself some slack, and prioritise a few of your needs.
And let me know how you plan to treat yourself in the comment box below – if you have the time that is...

Friday, 8 February 2013

It's always the quiet ones...

My best mummy moment of this week has to be my youngest daughter’s first class assembly. It was such a gratuitous treat to watch all the itty bitty cuties from Foundation file into the hall, saucer-wide eyes searching for their grown-up – and then smiling (and maybe even waving) when they gleefully caught sight of them.

It goes without saying that my little darling’s role was pivotal to the entire performance. Pivotal in that it was a non-speaking part in which she held up a piece of paper in front of her face at the exact moment she had to. Timing is everything in these productions of course.
Move along, there's nothing to see...

As an added bonus, my elder daughter was sitting on the floor right in front of me too (I was in the front row of parents naturally, since I had camped outside the hall doors the night before to ensure a good seat).  

Our family has a long tradition of shunning the limelight. Since we are also blessed with lack of stature, it didn’t take my older daughter long to realise she could easily avoid detection in any school play by simply hiding behind someone – anyone – taller than her. I have some lovely photos of her arms and legs. She was beaten by the ballet teacher however, who chose her as one of those to be at the front of the Christmas line up. The thwarted look on her face was priceless.

I don’t blame her at all, since I’m just the same. Rather than simply labelling it as shyness however, I like to see it as a kind of internal self-confidence.  Some people just don’t need or enjoy external affirmation in the same way others do. In fact some of us aren’t convinced when we hear positive comments from others, because what matters more to us is how well we think we’ve done.
Well, that's awkward...

This is probably why I’m reading Quiet by Susan Cain. The book argues that despite accounting for at least a third of the population, introverts get a bad rap because our culture celebrates and rewards the exact opposite. However, Cain believes that the extrovert is lost without his self-contained counterpart and that society should value the reserved. Of course I agree!

Perhaps not surprisingly then, when I decided to craft a piece of crime fiction for this competition I chose the underdog as my protagonist. Unfortunately for the extrovert in the story, his days are numbered.

Not that I’m suggesting us ‘quiets’ should rise up and murder the noise makers. It’s just that sometimes the extroverts need to shut up and listen – and likewise sometimes the introverts need to step outside their comfort zone. It takes all sorts to make our jolly little world go round – some of us are destined to tap dance up to stage to collect our Oscar, while others will be holding up the cue cards for that acceptance speech (preferably in front of our faces).

But do bear in mind that no one plans a murder out loud…!

Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Animal Farm, Harry Potter, Charlie Brown, the theories of gravity and relativity, Chopin's piano concertos and The Cat in the Hat wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for introverts. Which would you miss the most? And what do you think makes someone an introvert or the exact opposite? Let me know in the comment box below…

Friday, 1 February 2013

Bitching Barbies

Last weekend I attended a school reunion. Not an official one, but one in a London restaurant largely organised through Facebook. The event was fantastic, with lots of laughter and reminiscing. And some wine. And what left the biggest impression was that we all got on – just as I’d remembered we all had.

Perhaps most people wouldn’t find that so shocking – but if I told you mine was a girls school would you change your mind? I’ve found that Kent’s single-sex selective system brings out quite a lot of negative comments. On hearing that my secondary peers were all female, plenty of people ask: ‘But wasn’t that so BITCHY?’.  Well no, it wasn’t. Women aren’t always incredibly jealous individuals competing for the best boyfriend – some of us are actually quite friendly…even to each other!
Barbies shouldn't be left unattended
It was with this in mind that I spent some time reading about a ‘hot’ new book by Steve Biddulph. The basic premise is that girls are facing a ‘crisis’ because of the pressure society puts upon them to grow up too quickly. They want to be beautiful and sexy – long before they can comprehend what sexy means. And when they do become sexually active it’s for the wrong reasons – with the insecurity they experience over their identity leading to mental illness.

As a mother of two girls, I’m horrified to think that this could be the case. But when I really think about it, I’m not convinced that the situation is quite as clear cut as the media furore would have us believe. The cynic inside me also thinks a few outrageous press articles never did book sales any harm…

In truth there has always been pressure on females to behave in – and look – a certain way. And much of the force behind this has come from the male-dominated worlds of industry, media and politics. I find it ironic that much of the critical commentary on the way girls dress, behave and consume often includes some remark about feminism and the sexual revolution. There’s an undercurrent that suggests since females have benefitted SO much from the 'equal' society we now live in (chortle) it’s kind of our own fault our girls are being treated like life-sized Barbie dolls.

But who can save future females generations from self-harm, shattered self-esteem and self-medication by binge drinking? Why ‘parents’ of course – and by that we mean mothers!!! The onus is on us to build up confidence, explain sex and emotions and help guide our girls in life. Excuse me, but I pretty much plan to do that anyway…
Why not speak to your children?
Which neatly leads me onto what I’ve been writing this week (it’s like I plan this stuff!!). A local business mummy (see us women work as a team!) tipped me off about a call for submissions. The topic was women, and specifically stage scripts that focus on their stories and situations not presently represented on stage (women form 68% of theatre audiences but typically there is a 2:1 male-to-female ratio of roles for actors appearing on stage).

I think it’s true to say that the multi-tasking mummy isn’t often represented on stage, as there’s more mileage in a beautiful, young, singleton (playing opposite a male lead apparently!). So I wrote a monologue set at a school nativity play with the ensuing humour only various social gaffes  and gaining a decent camera shot can bring. During this exercise I even learnt how to mark up scripts!

Since I had some extra time I also submitted a 100-word entry into a competition judged by Jeffrey Archer. The ultimate prize is a place on a novel-writing course. Well, everyone has a book inside them.
What would your novel be about? (answers please in the comments box below!!)