Tallulah is Fifteen

Dearest girl,

you are fifteen today. For once in my life, I don’t have the words to begin to tell you what you mean to me and how much I love you.

You are one of the three greatest achievements of my life, and every day I am grateful that you are in it.

You are always good enough. You are always better than you think. You are always perfect to me.

I can’t do justice to what I want to say, but know that I would rip the still beating heart out of my chest if it would save you a single moment’s unnecessary pain. I wish you the realisation that everything you want is possible and everything you dream is attainable and still everything you are is just enough, right now.

I love you, best beloved, and I wish you happy on your birthday.

Love, mum.

A Week of Stuff

I had a slight panic last week regarding how many things I had to do in a week. Then I realised I had accidentally stuck three weeks together in one, which made things slightly less horrendous. I’ve often managed to confuse days before. I frequently have two Thursdays, or think I’m several days ahead or behind myself, but this is the first time I’ve glommed three weeks together.  I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re prone to anxiety attacks to be honest, although the relief after realising my mistake was rather splendid.

It was still a busy week, despite itself, and I find myself at ten to ten on a Sunday night already feeling a bit hamster wheelish, and like I’ve forgotten how to stop.

I’ve packed in a lot in the last seven days. On top of things like taking teenagers to the orthodontist, hosting wasp killers (who came to get rid of an interesting wasp nest near our back door) and boys to trampoline parties I’ve been picking up the threads of work again after a few weeks of wobbling around being poorly.  I’ve listed what is technically termed, a ‘shit ton’ of things on my EBay account this week in the hope that someone might decide I have the very thing they need. I’ve had one to ones with people from my networking group, and have been doing some work with private clients. I can’t say I’ve been businesswoman of the year, but I’m turning up and smiling in tights, and that’s what counts.

In more exciting news, I went to see a wonderful lady called Giulia Mio who is a hat maker.  She’s going to make me a splendid hat for my equally splendid wedding. I went to visit her in her studio and spent the most glorious hour amongst great pots of feathers and sequins. I got to try on hats, and basically did not want to leave, ever. She was lovely and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with.

I was also a bit of a social butterfly this week. I went to see the poet Benjamin Zephaniah do a performance at the Curve theatre on Tuesday night. Tilly was there, selling books in her role as professional Waterstones book seller person, so I had to buy a book to support her. On Wednesday my husband took me out on a hot date. We went to see Oceans Eight and then ate delicious steak.  On Thursday I scooted off to Birmingham to hang out with my friend Alex for the day. In the evening we went to see Caitlin Moran talk about her new book to Jess Philips. It was great fun. We all got a signed book and I got a hug from Caitlin who was not put off by the fact that I was a hot, sweaty, menopausal mess. She called me a ‘Fellow vagina warrior,’ and frankly it was one of the best things anyone has ever called me. I may get a t-shirt printed.

I also managed to fit in tea and biscuits with my splendid friend Kim, and got to hang out with my mum and dad a few times. I spent a lovely afternoon with my friend Carol, and altogether, it was jolly nice.

Brain Emptying

As Ferris Bueller once so wisely said:

‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.’

Life is roaring, roaring, I tells ya. I simply can’t keep up with living it and writing about it all at the same time right now. I do miss you all though, so have a potted history of some of the stuff wot haz happened and some of the stuff wot I haz dun.

Tilly’s birthday was splendid. We did, in the time honoured tradition of our family, much feasting and talking over the top of each other and dropping cake crumbs.  We are now gearing up for Tallulah’s birthday, which is next Sunday.

I went to my first branch meeting of the Women’s Equality Party, despite having been a member since forever. It was one of those days where I spent all day chasing my tail, and failing to do things. It culminated in me burning the dinner, setting off for the meeting late after extinguishing the dinner, losing the address and finally arriving 20 minutes before it ended, smelling of burned dinner and looking like an absolute basket weaver. I said I would help with the social media side of things and have failed to do anything of note since then. I do not feel I am an asset to the party.

I went to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition with my friend Claire, and resisted buying some art. I go every year (with the exception of last year when I was too ill) and always resist buying some art. It isn’t as easy as it sounds to be honest. Both Claire and I had deep yearnings for things. Luckily for me, the painting I coveted the most was too large for the weeny amount of space left for hanging pictures in my house, and £52,000.

I did not resist buying my wedding outfit however, and am now selling all my Emma Bridgewater pottery and all of my other clothes, to pay for it. So far I have paid for the shoes, the bag and about four inches of the actual outfit itself. I am making an appointment to see a milliner next week and am also looking at jackets, so do not expect to be out of debt until I am in The Shady Pines Home for Over-Dressed Old Women.  I will look fucking fabulous when they cart me off there though.

In less exciting news, my health is fair to middling with moments of mild despair from time to time. The mild despair usually coincides with a futile hospital visit. Therein lies a tale dearest loves, Sadly, it is a tale of woe. I am now in the throes of a formal complaint to the hospital for causing me to go into shock during a procedure which was, in all the 30 odd years of troublous gynaecological misery that has beset me, the most painful thing I have experienced to date. So that was fun,

Recovering wiped out a few days in which I had planned to do all manner of things, including going to see the wonderful, Knickers Model’s Own do a talk about style and pre-loved fashion. Still, she will do more, and I will go to them, even if I have to renovate the Chaise Longue of Death (TM) and put wheels on it to do it.

The house is currently in the midst of renovations and tribulations. Our freezer blew up, which was not as exciting as it sounds, and rather damp. We are waiting on a new one. Our shower floor is too bendy and all the tiles need ripping up. We are waiting for it to dry out, and interviewing plumbers and tilers like they’re going out fashion.  Our flat roof finally leaked one time too many, and we have had it fixed. Now we need to find a painter to repair the water damage.  The garden looks like it has been over run by savages and is currently hosting some indifferent foxes and some noisy and trundling badgers.  We are meant to be getting married in our garden in September. Right now that seems impossible to think about, what with one thing and another. My mum came and pulled up some weeds for me today. If you all come too, and we start a human chain, it might be fit for purpose, eventually.

On the wedding front, we are making slow advances with the organising. My God, it is boring. I mean, even though we are organising lovely things, it is such a massive pain in the arse to do. I am so grateful that I have decided to bin off almost everything most people have at their weddings. If I had to worry about things like what colour napkins I wanted on top of everything else, I would throw myself down a well. I have crossed being a wedding planner off of my list of things to do when I grow up.

My wonderful friends, Bonnie and MaryAnn came to see me for a few days, visiting from that there America. We ate all the food in Leicester, saw Richard III mouldering in the gravy and caught up by talking nineteen to the dozen until my jaw fell off and rolled under the kitchen table.

On Friday I won the coveted mother of the year award by driving Tallulah to Cardiff to see Ed Sheeran in concert. Timings were awkward due to life and shiz. It took four hours to get there. I drove, and Tallulah helped me by talking about everything under the sun in between eating an entire family sized packet of Mini Rolls. She’s not great at map reading, but if you need someone to eat Swiss roll, she’s all over that stuff.

Eventually, after glaciers melted, we got into the stadium. It was me, Tallulah, Ed Sheeran and 60,000 of his closest friends, all stuck together in a giant sweatbox with easy access to a great deal of over priced alcohol. Already, during the support act (Anne Marie) a girl ran by us and threw up all over another girl’s elbow and shoes.

I realise that I sound ungrateful. I know that many, many people would have killed for a ticket to see a tiny navy blue blob, with a tiny ginger blob on top, wielding a brown blob and singing hiddley diddley songs about girls of Celtic extraction.  I wish I were one of them.

I did try dear ones. I stood in a heaving sea of people all of whom were doing impressive amounts of dancing in five inch heels, with plastic pint glasses in one hand and their smart phones in the other, singing away and having the time of their lives, and really, really tried to tap into that joy.

Unfortunately, due to the Mini Rolls having run out, my hips killing me, having a hot flush, ironically, right in the middle of a song about fire that went on for about a metric week (the song and the flush), and knowing that I would be driving home afterwards, I really wasn’t feeling it. I know he’s a nice guy, well he seems to be, and he is very melodic  but I just find him dull. And I hate the song Galway Girl with a passion, and it’s the only one of his songs I actually recognise, which is unfortunate.  It didn’t help that I couldn’t get a cup of coffee and a cheese sandwich for a king’s ransom, and I couldn’t drink myself into unconsciousness, due to the whole driving home thing. But my girl had a wonderful time and I didn’t drive the car into a hedge on the way home, which considering we didn’t get home till three in the morning, was a blessing.

Yesterday I went to see the film McQueen, which was, rather unsurprisingly, about Alexander McQueen. It was amazing. I loved it, and it rather made up for Ed the night before. It made me very glad that I was lucky enough to see the Savage Beauty exhibition when it came to the V&A. It also made me want to go again. I got home and watched The Piano again. It’s 25 years since it was released, and having talked about it with people all last week and having been haunted by thoughts of it, it was no surprise that the score was used in McQueen. It was a sign that might be an omen.  I’ll let you know if I find out what it means.

 

 

 

Tilly is Nineteen

Dear Tilly

You are nineteen today. I thought about whether I should write you a birthday blog now that you’re an adult. It took about sixty seconds to decide that because you’re still my girl, no matter how much taller than me you are, that I should.

Parenting an adult is, I have discovered over the last twelve months, a peculiar beast, and one I have yet to tame fully. It turns out that it’s really hard, when you’ve spent almost two decades basically micro-managing someone’s life to step back, sit on your hands, close your mouth and let you get on with things.

I know I don’t always manage that successfully, so thank you for not bashing me over the head with a spade and burying me under the patio every time I check you’ve got a clean vest and a hankie.

In the last twelve months you’ve graduated from your university course, participated in an art show, built a fledgling business and got yourself a full time job. You’ve started travelling the world on your own, both for work and play and you’re about to start seriously looking for your first home. You’re navigating grown up relationships and all the heart ache and joy they bring. Everything is moving so fast,  and you’re dealing with all that life throws at you, far, far better than I ever did, or do now.

I don’t mention you much on the blog any more, because your life is most definitely your own, and it’s not for me to chronicle, but I am paying attention. I notice how brave you are, how much you push yourself, how much you worry about getting things right. I notice how hard you try to stick to your principles, to your essential Tillyness in a world that tries to squash us all into little, uniform blocks.

I know it all seems terribly overwhelming sometimes. It does for all of us. Just know that you are doing a fantastic job so far and I am so proud of you and all that your Tillyness entails.

Know also, that if it all goes wrong tomorrow, that you you will find your way, and you will learn what you need to learn and you will pick yourself up when you’re good and ready and you will succeed on your own terms, because those are always the best terms to deal with life. Know that I will continue to be proud of you, prouder even, because it’s the hard times that test our mettle most.

Know most of all, that we love you, no matter what, and that we are always here for you, whether you come home showered in glory or covered in shit.

Sometimes it’s hard, letting go of you, but it’s also glorious that you are so ready for your life.

Even though it’s hard, I know that because you are always in my heart, you’re never quite gone and that will do in between the times you come home.

Have a wonderful birthday, and then keep having wonderful days, one after the other, because that’s way more fun than having one good day in a sea of mediocre days.

I love you.

 

A soupçon of hope

I am feeling pretty hopeful right now. This is despite the fact that it is pouring with rain and my kitchen roof is leaking, it is half term, the children have eaten everything in the house, and I have been up all night with hot flushes.

It feels to me, you see, like the tide is turning. I say this, because unless you live in a cupboard you will know that the Irish people voted by a decent majority to repeal the eighth a few days ago. If you read my last post, you will know why I am so pleased.  I note that the majority of voters were women, and that the largest proportion of those were young women who were not buying into the absolute clap trap peddled by the media, and this makes me very hopeful for the future.

It’s novel to feel like this, because quite honestly I have been feeling quite mournful about pretty much everything, ever since the Brexit referendum.

Don’t get me wrong. There is still a whole pile of things to be miserable about and I’m sure I’ll get round to them later, but for now, I’m allowing myself a half term holiday of cheerfulness.

This little store of optimism has been buoyed up by other events in recent days. None of them as monumental as Ireland showing everyone how to live their best lives, but still rather splendid.

Tommy Robinson has gone to jail for being a naughty boy (and a massive, fascist bellend)

Roseanne Barr has had her T.V. show cancelled for being a naughty girl (and a massive, fascist bellend)

Through these stories I found out that Katie Hopkins, who I blocked on Twitter for sucking oxygen out of my life, got the sack from LBC last year for being a naughty girl (and a massive, fascist bellend) and even though I am late to the party, it made me really happy and I’m counting it as a win for my side.

And then Richard Madeley, he of the shoplifting, Ali G impersonating and being Judy’s husband, went and kicked Gavin Williamson’s arse on a live television interview for dodging questions. It was genius.

So, let us be of good cheer.

For a bit.

 

 

Repealing the 8th (Trigger Warning)

I’m trying very hard not to get too excited, but it looks like the Irish people have voted to Repeal the 8th, and I keep emitting little squeaks of excitement. The exit polls are looking good, and I am willing it to be true. How wonderful would it be if at least one voting experience of the last few years led to something positive?

I couldn’t be more proud of all the yes voters if I’d made them myself. The lengths that people went to to get home to vote were inspiring and incredibly moving.

I spent large parts of yesterday breaking out into little crying jags as I endlessly scrolled through Twitter, willing them on. Today I am swivel eyed with tiredness, have Tweeter’s finger and am massively dehydrated from all the crying, but hopefully it will all have been worth it.

As I was staring into my coffee cup this morning I kept trying to find the words to explain why this is so important to me, why it feels so monumental. Someone did ask me yesterday why I cared, given that I have full autonomy over my own body and what I do with it. I’ll try and explain.

I am lucky that I live in a country with laws that support my right to choose. For reasons entirely out of their control other women are not. It could have been me. It might be my children, depending on where they end up living.

It’s possible to have empathy. It’s possible to hope that were I in a less fortunate position, someone would help and support me. It’s possible to hope that no woman has to go through what women in Ireland (and other countries) have been having to go through on a daily basis.

Women in Britain only got access to abortion in 1968. That’s four years before I was born. If something had happened to my mum, or her sisters, prior to that date and they had had to think about an abortion, it would have put them in a potentially fatal position. It’s not ancient history we’re talking about here.

On a personal note, if I were Irish, the 8th Amendment could well have killed me.

I always wanted to have children, but I wasn’t very good at it. I’ve had five miscarriages, one ectopic pregnancy and three live births, all of which were messy and complicated.

Under current Irish law, my first miscarriage, during which the dead foetus did not come away and I had to have a procedure called a D&C to empty my womb, is classified as an abortion. If I hadn’t had a D&C I would undoubtedly have died of sepsis. If I had had a D&C I would have been branded a criminal and would have served a prison sentence.

Under current Irish law, the life of the foetus is sacred. My second pregnancy was misdiagnosed as a miscarriage. When I continued bleeding for several days after I was supposed to stop, I went back to the hospital in considerable pain and discomfort, and a scan showed that the baby had started to grow in my fallopian tube, not in my uterus. This is what an ectopic pregnancy is. If they do not remove the baby (and the tube), eventually the tube explodes and it can be fatal for the woman. It’s always fatal for the baby.  I got immediate emergency surgery which saved my life.  If I were in Ireland when this happened, I would not be here to write this.

After my girls were born, and I’d gone through two more miscarriages that were just awful rather than life threatening, I found myself pregnant again.  My marriage had just fallen apart, I had lost my job, I was living between houses and relying on the kindness of strangers. I was in a fledgling relationship which was under enormous pressure, and an accident meant that I fell pregnant.

I could not have that baby. I’d got two small children by this point. I knew exactly what parenting entailed. I love my children fiercely, but parenting is the toughest gig I know. My pregnancies had been largely terrible and frightening. How could I do that again when I needed to go out and get a job?  I needed to find a home. I needed to put food on the table. I’d got two small children relying on me to be present for them. I made the heart breaking decision to have an abortion.

I didn’t make it lightly. People who haven’t experienced having to make that decision often say that women choose it because it’s easy. It’s not easy. It’s never easy. It remains one of the most difficult experiences of my life.

The journey to the clinic was miserable. I sat in the doctor’s office as she fired questions at me and held in my tears. About five minutes into the appointment I felt a, by then, familiar cramping sensation. I excused myself to go to the toilet and found that I was actually miscarrying in the abortion clinic.

The journey home was equally miserable. I was heartbroken and anguished and conflicted and relieved all at the same time.

I had support from friends and family while all this was happening to me. I had the law on my side. It was still brutal. I think of all those scared, lonely women going through that and having to worry about going to prison on top of everything else, and I want to scoop them up and make everything better for them, because it could so easily have been me.

Since that time, one more miscarriage and a lovely son later I have had endless experiences of people in authority dismissing me and my body and what I can and can’t do with it.

I have spent the entirety of my gynaecologically active life defending myself from people ‘in charge’, who don’t know me or my body, telling me what to do with it. I have spent hours listening to people telling me that what I am feeling is nonsense, that what I know to be abnormal is actually ‘normal’, that I should go home and shut up and stop making a fuss. If I had done that, I would not be here now. As it is, years of my life have seen me held ransom to my biology because nobody was willing to listen to me.

Even now, it’s still happening to me. Even after a partial fucking hysterectomy I am still having to fight to be heard, to be acknowledged, to have my experience validated and investigated and my body treated with dignity.

All this happened to me. All this is still happening to me, and I live in a country that gives me legal rights over my body and what happens to it. I live in a country which doesn’t treat women like criminals for exercising their rights, but which still shames them and negates them and tries to shunt them into the sidelines.

It’s not that I cannot imagine what it must be like to have to go through that in a country like Ireland. It’s that I can imagine it all too well.

That’s why it’s so important to me. That’s why I care.

 

 

 

 

A Plague on All Your Toilets/bowls/bedsheets

After all the excitement of a giddy social life the week before last, I entered the environs of last week with the thought, ‘Thank goodness it will be a quieter week.’ I was, as any fule no, tempting fate.

In some respects it was indeed quieter. I went out once on a jolly with my friend Nicky to see David Baddiel’s show about his parents, ‘My Family,’ which was splendid and I highly recommend you see. That was on Friday. By then so many things had happened that I felt like an interesting bit of flotsam washed up on the beach rather than a lady who is keen and ready for anything.

We had a proper, old fashioned week of sickness in our house last week.

I used to be really good at that. Having three small children perpetually grubbing about at floor level means that you have to be. The early years of parenting are largely centred around feeding, mopping and setting up a field surgery in your living room. You live in perpetual fear of all three of them going down with something at once and running out of bed linen. I used to have nightmares where I dreamed of trying to re-make the beds using only tea towels and flannels in a hideous and ever changing patchwork. Then you realise that they will all get whatever it is anyway and is it any better for them to get it one at a time, in a torturously drawn out process, only for the first one to get something else as soon as the third one has finished with this bout?  It is truly all about being between a rock and a hard place.

Only the rock usually has nits and the hard place is invariably covered in sick.

In recent years, since they’ve become taller and less prone to eating gravel, licking floors and hanging out with scrofulous peers they will insist on locking heads with, things have become much easier. It has been me that has been perpetually ill with one thing and another.  This is inconvenient, but not so much of a crisis, due to the fact that when I am ill, my greatest desire in the world is to be left alone and for everyone else to fuck the fuck off. I also wash out my own sick bowls, and do my own laundry. I am a fairly low maintenance invalid.

So last week was a bit of a shock to the system.  We thought that Tallulah had given herself food poisoning with a dodgy sausage roll, she consumed in the pursuit of a rock ‘n’ roll, hedonistic lifestyle (hurtling down the M6 trying to get to an Amanda Palmer gig on time, shards of pastry flying in the wind).

We were wrong.  We have been steadily going down with a mysterious, violent and miserable making vomiting bug since the night of the long sausage rolls. I was the first to succumb after Tallulah. For my sins, because I couldn’t keep any food down, I also developed a dehydration/lack of caffeine migraine to go with it.  I do wish that a migraine wasn’t my default setting in a crisis. I can’t even send myself back to the shop to be reprogrammed. Toe cramp would be easier to live with. The irony of a migraine is that it makes me vomit, so it was just wall to wall vomit for a bit and then, because I am old and tired and always on the verge of being an infirm, Victorian invalid, it takes me a few days to get back on my feet. I’d say I’m currently at the limping rather than sprinting stage, but getting there.

Everyone is now (touching wood) on the mend. Lots of laundry has been done. I’ve had to dust off the yellow, plague flag and fly it high above the house.  I’m tempted to pack it back in the loft, with the nit comb and tea tree oil, but I think I’ll hang on to it for a few days. Just in case.