motherhood

The Miracle of Person Making

It suddenly hit me this evening, as I watched my beautiful daughter meander her way into the bathroom and make a massive deal out of cleaning her teeth, that I had made a person..a whole living, breathing person.  One capable of so much, and of occupying so much of my life, that I can barely imagine life before she existed.

Of course traditionally people believe that person making just takes two people – a boy and a girl, and a bit of biological luck. Although in my case it wasn’t quite as simple as that – it took a whole lot of medical science, some amazing doctors and medical staff, and a few pharmaceutical items to boot! I’ve always been immensely grateful to those people for her very existence of course.

Today my person finished Key Stay 2 at school and it occurred to me as I reflected at how quickly she had gone through the first three years of her school life, that it takes quite a few more people along the way to make a person! Between Reception and Year 2 our children change almost beyond belief. From babies to proper functioning and almost independent people in the blink of an eye! From barely walking and talking, to chit chatting, cartwheeling forces of nature, who make us laugh every single day.

Ella’s teacher left today. He’s been at the school for 6 years, and it was a sad occasion. He is officially ‘the funniest teacher in the world!’ She’s very lucky with her school, and she’s been incredibly lucky with her teachers, all of whom have been very different, but all of whom have undoubtedly left their mark on the little person they have been charged with helping to make. Because that is actually what teachers do. They spend so much time with our children, that they are as important in many ways as we as parents are, and I can see the mark that each one has left on Ella on her journey so far. I never expected any child of mine to be demanding to practise fractions on the way to school for a start. Sometimes I wonder if there’s been some mistake!

So as school closes for summer, I just want to say that I am total awe of teachers and always will be. How you handle that many children, particularly small ones and actually teach them anything is beyond me. And most of you do it for every other reason than the fact that it is a ‘job’!

So thank you to Mrs T, Miss H and Mr L for the last three years, for helping my little person to grow and flourish, and to all the other staff, especially our lovely head teacher, and other teachers,  who work so hard to make sure she becomes the best she can be! Person making is anything but easy, is a team job, and we all need all the help we can get!

Happy holidays everyone!

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motherhood

Today…

Today I smiled as Ella did her pony tail for the fourteenth time to get it ‘just right’ when she should have been cleaning her teeth. Today we walked to school extra slowly not caring if we were late. Today I missed her every second she was at school. Today I let her have an extra 10 minutes in the playground, took her to an extra Sainsbury’s to find a Lego sticker book, and let her have an extra biscuit with her tea. Today I looked extra hard at that beautiful face that I adore. Today I watched her swinging with utter joy , abandon and innocence on her swing in the evening sunshine when she should have been in bed and I could truly think of no more beautiful sight. Today I realised that today is what is important. Because who knows what tomorrow brings. Sending love to Manchester. x

gin

The Gin Thing

Somebody asked me recently if I thought there was any mileage in a particular variety of gin they were thinking about producing. Obviously there’s some commitment and expense involved in producing a gin of any description, so I gave it some consideration!

So gin appears to have been the new ‘in thing’ for the last couple of years, which given the fact that it’s one of the oldest and most traditional of beverages out there, is kind of ironic. Barely a week goes by without a new ‘micro-gin’ appearing , each one purporting to have the purest process and ultimate mix of botanicals to tempt you to their door. Novelty flavours adorn our shelves, some almost too preposterous to contemplate, but actually, so easy to drink. And the merchandisers have jumped on the band wagon as well! Shopping bags, aprons, door plaques all suggesting that gin is the lifestyle drink of our time! That most classic of British cocktails has become a modern trend that shows no sign of slowing down. (And yes, I know the Dutch invented it!)

Ably assisted by the equally meteoric rise of the tonic market undoubtedly pioneered by the remarkable story of Fever Tree tonic, the gin market continues to spew previously unimaginable combinations claiming to be ‘gin and tonic’. Rhubarb gin and ginger tonic, cardamon gin and Mediterranean tonic, coconut gin and elderflower tonic..the list goes on!

And the bi-products don’t stop there! An off the cuff quip on Facebook about ‘gin and crisps for tea’ when my husband was away has somehow marked me down as a hardened gin-drinker, an expert in the field!  The reality was that my most daring deviation from a simple Gordon’s and tonic prior to that, had been one of my favourite product innovations – gin in a tin! For a busy mum, there is no sweeter thing than a perfectly chilled version of a perfectly mixed G&T that requires nothing more than a pull of a ring and a pour over ice! And portable too for those emergencies/picnic opportunities.

Friends quickly introduced me to the joys of Bombay Sapphire – and there my journey through the magic Gin-dom began! Every single ‘gin-ovation’ on the market has been tagged on my Facebook page – sorbets, crisps, cakes, tarts, face scrubs, lip balms, you name it! I’ve even had a gin and tonic cake baked for me.

I am naturally very grateful, and can boast a fabulous collection of gins on my shelf, and and a merchandise collection I’m proud of.

But for me, it has increasingly become about the aesthetics! The packaging can outweigh the flavour when it comes to the look of that gin shelf, and for any prospective gin producer, I think that is the thing to invest as much time and energy into, as the taste of the stuff itself.

A gin shelf really can be a thing of beauty these days. With gin brands old, micro and new bringing in the big boys of branding to perfect their visual image!

I mean, who doesn’t love a Silent Pool bottle – can anyone bear to put one in the bin? It is a thing of design brilliance, evoking not only the unique colour of the ‘Silent Pool’ in the Surrey Hills from which it is hails, but also the turquoise of an Asian sea across which gin drinkers of yesteryear must have surely gazed with their sundowner in hand!

Brighton, Monkey and Portobello gins rank highly for me in their design beauty giving us a taste of vintage glamour, with the Hoxtons, the Pinksters and the Opi adding to the wild and whacky both in bottle design and flavour.

Of course, images like these are social media gold, and Instagram, or ‘Gin-stagram’ as I like to call it have done their part to encourage the gin revolution, and as Spring turns to Summer I can only imagine the frequency with which #gin will appear in our feeds in some form or another! The rise of the gin craze in my opinion is far from over. A humble gin and tonic has become an art form, and a mouth watering one at that. And all I can really say is, I’ll drink to that!

Knitted Unicorn
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Motherhood Achievement Alert or Tales of Knitting a Unicorn!

So I’ve done it – I’ve reached the pinnacle of my motherhood career – I have achieved the ultimate, I can do no better  – and my daughter is only 7!  Where do I go from here ?Because on holiday, I …knitted…a …unicorn!!!

On the extraordinary journey that has been motherhood I have so far failed on all counts even from the point of conception, which was more challenging than it needed to be. Pregnancy was complicated.. birth too! Breastfeeding I eventually managed, but not without some struggles along the way, and mainly because I couldn’t be bothered sterilising things. Sleep scheduling – a total washout!  My baby hasn’t slept in 7 years! Didn’t even get past the starting gates. Weaning…or Annabel Karmel Hell as I like to call it – not possible when you have given birth to a koala who insists on being strapped to your chest, and  anyway, do babies really need a bayleaf and a peppercorn in the bechamel sauce for their fish pie! Give me strength!

Passing her into the hands of others for a substantial part of her day was the best thing I ever did! Nursery was also a nightmare in the beginning, screaming child left daily, but in the end she thrived, as she has done at school.  I, on the other hand, have struggled to keep on top of life – the things that you have to remember, the school uniform labelling, the days that they have sausage and mash on the menu and a packed lunch is required!  I haven’t kept up with her reading, and I haven’t felt like I’m really in control.

I’ve done better at birthday parties, but have learned the hard way to keep it simple and delegate where you can, but from her first birthday I decided I had to create a cakey masterpiece to mark the occasion, and I went 3D from the start!  Not being a baker, it was all about the icing, so we’ve had a duck, three little pigs (including house of straw) and a 3D Rapunzel including icing hair.  Frozen was an inevitable theme and then my favourites, The Singing Mermaid and Miss Moon, all featuring  icing figures resembling Bet Lynch after her most recent break up! But they prompted the odd ooh and aaah!

Fancy dress costumes have also been on my hit list of ‘things I must do as a mother’! I was determined not to resort to Tesco’s for nativities, and have created a donkey, a star and a camel from scratch, all to much stress, late nights and usually functional issues. But I’ve tried! The camel drove me to buy a sewing machine which I was then too panicked to work out how to thread, but a year later I did manage to thread it go create a cow girl waist coat for her very last nativity! That may not see the light of day for a while!

The irony of all this is that people think I can actually do this stuff!  They think I am a talented baker and seamstress, when the reality is I am a pretender – I have a go and and pray! My cakes are inedible for a start, and my costumes will only stand one wear before they disintegrate! Not that I didn’t do needlework at school – I did, like every other schoolgirl of the 70s, forced to master a pedal powered Singer, while the boys did more interesting things like woodwork! But it served me well when I wanted to shorten my school skirt, or create the ra-ra that my mother refused to buy me!

But knitting has long been on my horizon as something I wanted to re-acquaint myself with – I used to love knitting as a kid, and by all accounts it’s quite trendy to knit these days!  Yes, even youngsters do it! Plus  you can watch the telly at the same time! Last year I took some knitting needles on holiday and managed a teddy bear jumper for one of Ella’s pool mates! It was unskilled and very rough around the edges but it clothed a bear. I was pleased with my efforts.

This year, having grabbed a knitting magazine from Tesco’s on my final pre-holiday shop, I decided the time was right – I needed to create something proper and actually follow a knitting pattern….deciper those unguessable letters and work out how to cast on, knit back and front and all that jazz – I like a plan after all!  Thanks to YouTube I did it! And despite not having the appropriate equipment, ie. DP needles, which to the uninitiated I should point out are ‘double point’ knitting needles – ooh get me – I managed it!  A little resourcefulness on the part of the children saw them presenting me with 4 satay sticks and a pencil sharpener, and home made DP needles were born!

Of course, Ella was delighted with her mummy’s talents, which has always been the point, no matter how rough the results, but knitting really is very easy after all.  And best of all, she decided that she wanted her new best friend on holiday, Gracie, to receive the fruits of her mummy’s labours, which can only make me very proud. It also meant I had to knit Gracie’s little brother a fish pretty darned quick, but once you’ve got the unicorn basics, a fish is simple stuff!

 

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Mein Daddy

Smile and Wave Boys

I have written this blog post in my head a thousand times.  The first time was a year ago today when I realised it was my dad’s birthday, and that that meant that one week later, he would have been dead five years.   Five years…that seemed an awful long time when I had done so little to really remember him. And I couldn’t do it.  At that point, in a hotel bar with a gin in my hand, it hit me quite hard – maybe it was the environment – a place that I would inevitably always associate with him.  But the fact that he had been gone for 5 years made it feel like it was yesterday!  Where had that time gone?

Despite many years of ill health, his death came suddenly and very quickly when Ella was only 4 months old.  Everybody’s world is turned upside down…

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 The Magical Mysteries of Batter Week

There came a point last week, after many days of sensational Bake Off headlines, when I started to think…really now, there are more important things happening in the world. Let’s move on! How many column inches can we give a tv show, albeit the nation’s most beloved!

But this evening I was humbled. This evening I realised why this show has risen like the enriched dough of Bread Week, to the dizzy heights and price tag that it has. Because tonight I witnessed a minor miracle in the after school chaos that usually adorns this household.

Yesterday, my daughter, who had spent most of the summer holidays glued to Disney Channel (when I say most, I mean most of her TV time), watched 3 back to back episodes of Bake Off. All of her own volition, carefully selecting Batter Week, Biscuit Week and Bread Week in the order of her desire.

Now, whilst I had adopted a ‘this too shall pass’ attitude to the Disney Channel situation – one honed from the 6 month ‘eat nothing but spag bol’ phase, the 2 year ‘watch nothing but Peppa Pig’ phase, and the 3 week love affair with mini bags of Maltesers, that she sneaked at breakfast time, I was really hoping that at some point we might add a bit of variety and age appropriateness to our viewing.  But try as I might to find something engaging on CBBC, nothing would divert her from her Disney.

So relief was mine when this evening, she sat down, turned the television on, and went straight back to Batter Week!  Minutes later she appeared with my laptop in her hands, having Googled Bake Off pancakes. And there they were.  The lacy pancakes of the technical challenge. Recipe to be followed. Which she did – single handedly whilst I prepared separate dinners for her, her dad, the dog, the guinea pigs and the chickens!

Batter rested and tea eaten, we melted our butter and heated our pan. We made our practice pancakes. We made our non-practice pancakes. And we relaxed and enjoyed a moment that I will remember for a very long time.  Our enjoyment curtailed by an overheating induction hob, we made an appointment to resume for breakfast tomorrow morning! Because guess what, it is dead easy!!!!  And so much fun.

So there I think we have it. There we have the reason why the headlines, the price tags and the banter and debate should be tolerated, embraced and acknowledged. Because like it or not, popular TV can have a very important place in our lives. Ella has been totally transfixed by Bake Off, particularly Batter Week as an ardent Yorkshire Pudding fan, but more than that she took what she had learned from watching, and put it into remarkable practice. She is only 6 after all.

So thank you Paul, Mary, Sue, Mel, the BBC, the production company, Uncle Tom Cobley ‘n’ all, for creating such exceptional television magic. It remains to be seen whether Channel 4 have the same magic touch, and which of the main ingredients create the perfect mix. But I for one will be sneaking off and knocking up another batch of that lacy pancake batter – because let me tell you, addictive isn’t the word for creating and cooking lacy patterns out of flour, eggs and milk! Compulsory is the word! Give it a go! Therapy in a bowl! We’re doing Mickey Mouse next!

 

 

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The Sum of Small Parts

So, the last few days have been some of the most surprising of my life. First of all a surprising victory for the Brexit campaign, and secondly my own reaction to it…which I have to say I am deeply shocked and surprised by. I was surprised to find myself bursting into tears on a regular basis, and when somebody mentioned the feeling of grief to me yesterday, we all agreed that that is exactly what it felt like. Obviously I have very deep European connections, and I work for a very European organisation, but I know I am not alone.

Of course there has been a lot of emotional out-pouring on various social media, and most people are beginning to tire of it a little. I am trying to move on – onwards and onwards I keep saying. In my heart I hope and believe that we will learn from this. But what I am concerned about is the the fact that some of my nearest and dearest don’t understand why I feel like this – and that that may cause a gulf between us. I know we are all having those ‘which way did you vote’ conversations, uncomfortably at best…and I think we have to recognise the factors that made individuals take the decisions that they did, on both sides.

For me, I was totally ambivalent about the Referendum simply because I felt completely unqualified to make the decision that had befallen me. I didn’t understand the issues, the impact or the consequences involved, and I just didn’t believe that we would ever get close to an ‘out’ vote. It was only when somebody challenged me – he gave me ‘homework’, said he hadn’t decided which way to vote, but said that it was our moral duty to inform ourselves and make an informed choice that I started to get engaged. He also sited immigration as a reason he was thinking out, and used the prison population as an example. And that was where he hooked me in, because I worked in a prison for 2 and half years and I suddenly felt qualified to comment.

From that point on I started to ask questions of people I considered to be more intelligent, more knowledgable and more qualified to make the decision than I. I started to listen intently to anything that was on the radio – and there was lots – all coming at it from different angles, not just politicians doing what they did so badly, not just irresponsible headlines on tabloid and broadsheet press alike, but lots of debate from ordinary members of the public, businessmen, different communities, etc. I wanted a balanced view from all parts of the argument. The Jeremy Vine Show became my friend. I listened to Eddie Izzard make an impassioned plea for Remain, but I didn’t find it very convincing I have to say, much to my disappointment. I listened to others declare that we needed control, we needed sovereignty, and we needed democracy. And I didn’t really understand what they meant by that.  I read lots of blogs, trying to sort out the facts from the fiction. I got increasingly angry with the ‘official communication materials’ being shoved through my door which gave ‘factual statements’ which were not factual at all but were intended to motivate people to vote a particular way.

The truth is that not everyone took the time to become informed – they believed the soundbites, the headlines, the literature coming through their door. Because they probably never thought the consequences would be what they are either.  And I only really became truly engaged and motivated when the ultimate tragedy happened. A young and promising politician who had so much to give, was taken from us, at a time when she was needed the most. Boy can we see that now!!! I felt I owed it to her and people like her to vote with knowledge and with belief and with hope for my daughter’s future. And that’s what I did.

Now I also know I live in a bubble, and that I can’t possibly understand what it’s like to be long term unemployed or anything like that – those that know me however, know that my roots are humble, and any successes in life, is self-attained. And I also appreciate that lots of people were angry, wanted change, etc. But I have to say that most people that I have met who voted ‘out’ didn’t vote for those reasons either. As far as I can tell the ‘out’ campaign had so many ‘toys’ in their ‘toy box’ they managed to get something to resonate with anybody who was struggling to make a decision. And the ultimate irony was, that people bought it and believed that they could deliver. Which of course they can’t , because we now realise that they actually have no power. And that if we want those things to change, we need to do it a different way!

In my view, a lot of people (and I say a lot, not everybody obviously) got this confused with a general election, they thought that the argument was rich versus poor, left versus right, that immigration had to be stopped at whatever cost, even though Europeans make up only part of the immigration statistic, that we would be better off making our own decisions. All of these are worthwhile reasons to vote ‘out’ if you really believe them – all of them are worthy reasons for any vote if you really believe that that vote will right the wrongs that ail you, and I totally respect anyone and everyone for the decision that they made. But as somebody who left school with a few ‘O’-levels to her name, even having failed sociology, I for one felt ill equipped to make that decision – and I think that others felt the same. We have therefore made a huge decision for our nation based on ‘gut feelings’, fear, believing untruths that were unforgivably told to us, rolling a dice even, and now we can’t do anything about it. I think the ‘out’ vote was a sum of many parts -people grabbing something they could relate to – but when you’ve only got a choice of two, it’s hard to make a balanced decision right?!

I also think we have to stand by the referendum result and learn from it! Because I think we will. If this process has shown anything it is that people really do care, that they really do want change, and that there is a lot of passion out there to get it done. Out with the old and in with the new is what I say! And please educate the future generations better than you educated mine! Now somebody go and buy Angela Merkel a very large beer! And make sure it’s cold.