Monday, 6 October 2014

The saga of the chocolate bar and other such things

There was a time in my life when my biggest concern was the size of chocolate bars. I just couldn't understand why they, the important chocolate makers, did not produce them in generous portions. Of course I was ignoring the family size offerings in my gripe, my pocket money did not cater for such flamboyancy. I was concerned with the average chocolate bar in the local newsagents and why it wasn't larger.
This was also around about the time I would frequently discuss with best friend, if she or I would be the type of person to become A Career Woman or A Stay At Home Mum.
Isn't youth great, you can be so naive it's ridiculous.
Sometimes in life you simply don't have a choice. And I'm not talking about those chocolate bars, because let's face it, you can always buy two when you are A Working Woman. Or realise they are that size for a reason - they can make you very fat and when you are An Older Person it's too easy to pile on the pounds when the old metabolism finally slows down.
I've returned to work after my maternity leave because I have to. Not so I can climb the career ladder, knocking people off on my way, ruthlessly heading towards the top, and for my reward I can occupy my own office and have someone else ordering my Starbucks coffee.
Fortunately I kinda like my job. Currently I am sort of in charge of a contract worth a little under a million pounds. It's for the international mailing of the publications, for a three year period. I've held meetings with potential suppliers, arranged site visits, and written reports and spreadsheets of my evaluations.
However, I would rather be with Tommy. This is the brutal truth but it is literally not possible. We have to also earn my wage to be able to afford our home, our bills, our car, our food.
So I regularly feel guilty. Especially in the mornings when I kiss Tommy goodbye, before he spends the day with my parents. I know it could be worse, he's with my parents who adore him and my boss is flexible - I'm allowed to work from home one day a week and book one day off per week. I treasure this extra time I can spend with my son.
Weekends are precious too. I love the fact I can play with him all day long. I don't want to miss a moment, I want to be there when he points at his book and says, "Car!" at the blue car. I want to hold his little hand when he tries to walk/stumble towards me. These are the things which money can't buy. These milestones are worth more to me than a million pound contract.
Therefore, I rarely venture out without Tommy at the weekends, why would I when I can be with him.
Apart from last Saturday. Last Saturday afternoon I met my best friends for lunch. It had been nearly a year since we last all met on the same day, which is a shame. I do miss our catch ups but circumstances are very different these days, for all of us.
I hated leaving Tommy. It wasn't really practical to struggle with a pushchair on trains and a boat, and expect him to sit still whilst I gossiped and drank. My friend saw my sad face when I walked up the pathway to her house, before we travelled by train together for our lunch date on a boat. She was hanging out one of her windows and asked me what was up.
"Oh I've just waved goodbye to Tommy, I feel guilty again."
"Hey, it's not for long. Besides, he'll have fun with his daddy."
I immediately felt better, and we did have a lovely afternoon.

Moussaka, joy on a plate.

Chocolate brownie, another guilty pleasure.

Me and the girls (a rare glimpse of me, and black and white can be more flattering, wouldn't you agree?!)

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Dirty socks

I was sitting on a fast train, lost in a million thoughts.
Hmm, well maybe not exactly a million, as this is a very high number when associated with thoughts. It was a fair few anyway. Nothing life-changing, like a medical breakthrough for Cancer, or a solution for world peace. Just, you know, stuff.
I was actually thinking about Tommy’s dinners for the week, the International Mailing Tender in the office, I was also wondering when I’d have time to make cards for forthcoming birthdays, and reflecting on the book I’d purchased to read during my commutes.
It was only when an American voice disrupted my thoughts, I was brought back to present time.
And to be honest, I was a little disappointed.
Because I like thinking. I like sitting on a train, staring out the window and processing my thoughts. I also like reading. If I’m not thinking, I’m equally as happy submerging myself in a fulfilling book.
Not that I’m complaining, but I rarely have time to myself these days, life revolves around Tommy and the office. Therefore, train journeys are my luxury, they provide me with the time to think. Or read.
So I’m a little unsociable when I’m travelling. Is this an impolite thing to admit? I would rather sit by myself and loose myself, which is not something possible when in company.
Back to the American voice.
I’m not against American accents, in fact, I am partial to a southern accent which was the origin of this one. I am not an enemy of the person the voice belonged to. The American was my new publisher in the office, and she happens to live literally around the corner to my parent’s chalet bungalow.
You know what this meant, dear readers? It meant I had company on the train. All the way. All nearly two hours of my commuting. No thinking or reading allowed!
This is why I was disappointed. I had to actually participate in a conversation in my carriage, and I was out of practice to say the least.
However, the new publisher is the friendly type. We were soon dissecting our lives and chatting away like old friends.
The most difficult part of the journey? Apart from sacrificing my thinking or reading, the trickiest part was trying to discreetly text Mark about his dirty socks.
I’d decided it would be considered rude to not offer the new American publisher a lift home. She did live literally around the corner to my parent’s chalet bungalow after all. It was approximately twenty minutes walking as opposed to five minutes driving.
But I was concerned about Mark’s socks. Let me explain that I am the neatest, tidiest, cleanest (well to the best of my abilities within the time frame), person at home. But in car it’s a different matter entirely.
I suppose you could say I’m always in a rush in our automobile. In a rush to get somewhere, and always pre-occupied with Tommy. The car suffers. It is not very clean or tidy. I was also aware of the pair of Mark’s worn socks on the back ledge.
Our car was not a great impression of our personalities.
So I was panicking slightly, during this mentioned train journey. The nearer we became to our destination, the more I worried about our personal care and carelessly strewn objects.
Somehow I managed to text Mark: Dirty socks and car, will offer publisher lift!
He got it. He knows how I stress about these things and so he cleaned and tidied our car, before the train arrived and before I walked around the corner, with an apprehensive look on my face.
And he removed the offending socks.
But guess what happened next?
The publisher politely declined my offer of a lift. Said she had her trainers and enjoyed the walk and peering in people’s gardens.
After all that worrying.
Still, the car finally got cleaned. And we have decided to keep it tidy just in case this should happen again.
Sort of.
Let’s not expect miracles, hey dear readers.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Nikki and the green polka dot fingers

Do you have green fingers?
I know it's not considered normal to possess green fingers, unless of course you were to paint them green, or you are actually in fact a lizard.
Now, I think it's safe to assume you are probably not reading this whilst dipping your hand into a pot of green paint. I also think I could be correct in saying, you are not a rare species of lizard, the type who switch on a computer and read blogs.
Green fingers are generally associated with someone who is a keen and talented gardener. Therefore, I do not, metaphorically speaking, have green fingers.
Maybe if my days were longer and my time was unlimited, I might be a keen and talented gardener. For in my parallel universe, I grow tomatoes, carrots, runner beans, potatoes and prize sunflowers. I also must mention that in this idyllic universe, lilac trees provide a splash of colour in my whimsical sanctuary. And my rhododendrons are a horticultural dream.
Let's get back to reality.
It's not as if I don't care about my outside living space. Every time I gaze into the back window of our little cottage, or fling open the barn door, I feel calm and blessed with our patch of paradise. Luckily for me, it's rather low maintenance.
We have no lawn to mow, which is just as well as we do not own a lawn mower. We have tiny stones, and a winding quaint pathway to the barbecue area, with colourful bunting hanging from the wooden bars. We have green trees and shrubs whose names have escaped me. And we have a decking area for Tommy's circus tent, a decking area which also hosts our table and chairs, and lots of tubs with dainty looking flowers poking out.
Oh and let's not forget my shabby chic watering can, the carefully painted distressed looking white stool, the green wicker chair, my new 'in the garden' sign, and the white wicker wine carrier/candle holder weather and occasion permitting. Plus all the other bits and pieces which decorate our oasis, when the sun is no longer hiding.
You see, I might be clueless when it comes to cultivating, robbed of time for reviving roses, but I am particular when it comes to presenting things in a pretty manner.
So I guess you could say, I have green polka dot fingers.

Monday, 15 September 2014

And then there were three

Yesterday was Mark and I's second wedding anniversary. And this year there are three of us.

It was my god daughter's 5th birthday party in the morning. There were games and croissants in the garden.

And a very tall magician.

Tommy watched from Daddy's shoulder.

Then we drove to Brighton to see the sights.

The sky was blue and Tommy was smiling.

We walked along the pier.

Stopped off for an ice-cream on a deck chair.

Indulged in fish and chips and mushy peas.

We walked around the pavilion gardens.

Then it was back to our hotel along the sea-front.

With a bottle of wine and Tommy's toy bag.

What a great way to spend an anniversary.

Monday, 8 September 2014

The last car boot sale

Summer is slowly disappearing. In its place are dark tights and long cardigans. I’m always grateful to a new season, I like the change of atmosphere and planning new events ahead.
Soon I shall be crunching golden leaves, in my brown tanned boots, and discussing witches and fireworks.
And just to prove my point, on Saturday we went to the last car boot sale of the year. It's considered too cold to stand by your car boot during frosty mornings.

The car boot sale was a five minute journey from the cottage, in the grand grounds of a care home. All proceeds from entrance fee, sellers fee, Victoria sponge cake and coffee, go towards caring for the residents in the home. We treated Tommy to a drum and a book about a rabbit.

On Sunday Mark and I visited a park literally on the same road as us (it's an exceedingly long road). As soon as we entered we wondered why we hadn't visited before. It boasts a rugby club, a nursery, a golf course, a paddling pool, crazy golf, a sensory garden, an adventure playground, a climbing wall, and a cafe. We were hooked. And I look forward to spending Autumn afternoons drinking hot chocolate in the cafe, and trying not to fall off the see-saw again.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

It began with a latte

This week began with a latte. I was ridiculously early for a meeting in London, with a potential new supplier, so I stopped off for a latte and watched the world walk past.

I booked the day off mid-week to spend with Tommy. Here he is laughing in his bedroom, in his PJs still.

The weekend was embraced with welcome arms. Friday night, myself, Mark, Mark's dad, and Tommy ate at our favourite Thai restaurant. Well Tommy had milk and rice cakes and played with his nursery rhyme book.

Saturday I saw my friend Eve and her gorgeous daughter, my god daughter. We went to the park. Tommy loves the swings.

We enjoyed milkshakes at The Tea Cosy, the cafe opposite the park.

Sunday we spent the day in one of the prettiest (and largest) gardens I know. It was a friend's daughter's birthday party. There was an entertainer and lots of children running about.

They even have a tree house, in the prettiest (and largest) garden I know.

Tommy played for quite a while in the playhouse.

There was a pretend sink which Tommy found fascinating.

Hi Tommy!

Here's my beautiful nephew.

Tommy even had a ride in a pink car.

Then it all ended with birthday cakes. What a nice ending.

And I didn't even mention that I nearly sliced my finger off with the hand blender Thursday night and spent four hours in A&E. Yes it hurt.
What am I like.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

An alien, a woman and a genie

So there I was rushing around the house like a bargain hunter at a Primark closing down sale, when Mark’s three little words stopped me dead in my tracks.
“Robin William’s dead.”
I stopped stuffing spare clothes into Tommy’s essential items bag, and gasped.
“Robin Williams, the funny one? How?”
I gasped even louder and nearly dropped the essential items bag.
But he was a comedian, he was always making people laugh, he was always happy, wasn’t he?
Well apparently not.
I looked at Tommy, who was making frustrated noises at his milk bottle, which was standing next to his lunch box, which was waiting to be packed inside the car, and wondered about Robin’s children. How the heck do you tell kids something like that? I remembered seeing a picture of his children in the newspaper once, they were older than Tommy, and old enough to understand what suicide meant and the pain that accompanied it.
I confess, in the past, to a low tolerance towards the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Loosing a loved one is hard enough, but to know they chose to leave you and leave all the mess behind they’d created, I found that hard to swallow.
Despite the fact I had never met the man, Mr Williams cause of death contradicted my previous views on suicide. Because he'd always come across as so sweet and charming, and very, very funny. I couldn’t find it in me to despair of his last act on earth and mention the word selfish. He was obviously very, very unhappy.
Mental illness is, luckily, not something I am familiar with. Severe depression has, luckily, escaped me. Sure I've been down, but there has never been a time where I've thought the only answer is to end it all. I couldn't remove the morning's disturbing news from my head, as I spent the remainder of the time in my house preparing for my day ahead.
It unnerved me that someone as popular, as loved, as talented, and let's face it very, very, rich as he could be so desperately depressed that they could think that's it, I have to kill myself.
Mark and I finished dressing Tommy and packing the car in silence. Somehow we'd lost our sense of urgency. For did it really matter if we were a few minutes late and I missed my usual train? There'd be another one soon enough. But there wouldn't be another Robin Williams.
Once all three of us were safely seat belted, Mark switched on the radio. It was flooded with news and tributes to the comedian/actor. I checked Facebook and Twitter on my mobile, as expected the world was in shock and mourning.
Apparently he had many demons, alcohol and drugs and severe depression all took their toll. "Perhaps other people will be encouraged to talk about their depression and seek help before it's too late," was a much quoted sentence on August 11th 2014.
Let's hope so.
Mark drove me to the train station where I hugged Tommy goodbye, a little tighter than usual. I kissed Mark goodbye, a little fiercer than usual. I was thankful for our simple life, our cheery, uncomplicated life and attitudes.
I bought my train ticket and boarded my train and still I couldn't stop thinking about Robin Williams. Over the years he had embraced my television screen. I recalled laughing out loud at his portrayal of an alien living on earth, his extremely funny adaptation of a woman pretending to be a man, and his genius comedy act where he was a genie for a little boy.
He could do all those marvellous things, but he just couldn't be happy.
Sad, isn't it.
I hope he's at peace now.