Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Neo the cat: a day in the life

I occupy the house with the cat more than with anyone else. Since he came to live with us we've spent the most time together. In the early days when he was being kept in I used to come home from work first so we would have some one to one time then I'd give him his dinner. When I was pregnant he used to sit on my tummy - until the baby started to kick him that is !

As time progressed he got used to the shift in power from him being the first to get fed to the small human being first and then him. He now knows that as soon as the boy has his dinner he will get his, so he sits at his bowl moaning about the starvation he's convinced he's suffering.

Neo came to live with us when he was about 6 and a half years old - Battersea weren't entirely sure - so he's pushing 13 years old now. He's settling into a comfy middle age that is belied by his scampering down the path when he spies me at the kitchen window. He insists on miaowing by the cat flap until someone opens the door - or my son holds the flap open for him. Not for nothing do we call him a primadonna.

He used to follow me around like a doting suitor and he'd miaow at me when he wanted food. Now he only talks to me when he wants to eat - he is basically a teenager. Now my boy is at school during the day so me and the cat have the house to ourselves during the day and a typical day goes something like this:

5.25: Hubbie wakes up to get ready for work - he feeds the cat. He comes up to lie on the bed with me (Neo, not Hubbie)
6am: as Hubbie pops in to say "bye" the boy wakes up and wanders in to join us.

9.30: I get home from the school run and a swim - Neo hasn't moved.

10.30: Neo helps me hang out the washing

Or he doesn't ...

1.30: Lunchtime. He gets up, stretches and goes to the kitchen to miaow for biscuits

2.00: While I listen to the Archers repeat Neo pops out to sunbathe

3.30: We get home from school and he is sitting there waiting to greet the boy

8pm: When we finally some time to ourselves he watches a bit of telly with me. You know, the usual, Bake Off, Come Dine - what can I tell you, he's a foodie.

Unless he can sneak into story-time that is. If he can crash a story at bedtime that's where you'll find him, pretending not to listen. All casual like.

So that's a day in the life of my cat. Not a bad life really is it ?

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Siblings wanted - preferably twins (a wish from my son)

Will you be my brother ?
This afternoon my boy said he wanted another swing. He has one in the garden already that Grandma gave him when he was little. It's one of those that adjusts to suit a growing child and he loves it. He wasn't asking me to replace it, but to get an additional one, "for my sister or brother." I smiled and said we'd see. Later at bedtime I asked him about his request and he said he'd like a sister called Topsy - he is obsessed with twins and especially Topsy and Tim from Cbeebies. He also said we could get bunk beds like the ones we had on holiday at Coombe Mill in the summer. I gave him an extra big squeeze and said goodnight.

When I went downstairs I was not in a good way. I get clumsy when I'm upset or angry and I was dropping things and just a bit disoriented. You see he is not an only child out of choice. We would love to have more children. It is our sincerest wish for him to have a sibling if not more than one. We tried from when he was a few months old. I fell pregnant when he was two, but it was not to be. Then we decided to go ahead with our second attempt at adoption. As he is almost 4 he was also involved in this process and the social worker talked to him about his expectations. He became excited at all this talk of a brother or sister - not a baby, but another playmate and someone to even the odds in the house. If he had an ally he'd stand a better chance of outwitting his parents. The cat is a great pal, but he's no good in an argument.

Then it all went quiet. He hasn't seen the social worker for months and there has been no further news about a brother or sister. He's at a new nursery where his classmates have older siblings and baby siblings and he notices. His teacher has said - more than once - that his inability to share may be because he doesn't have anyone to share with at home. It's not exactly subtle. It's not his fault - he does try and he is lovely with younger children. When we went for a swimming lesson the other day one of the other children had their baby sibling there too. While he waited for all the other children to get dressed my boy stood at the side of the pram looking at the baby inside. He caught me watching him and I smiled at him, he didn't smile back.

It's ok little buddy, I'll be your brother
I feel sad for my boy because he would dearly love not to be an only child. He has no cousins and is always around adults - apart from at school of course. His speech is amazing, he is entertaining and amusing, but he really wants some company from his own peer group. I wish there was a simple way to make this all better. To say. "yes son, you will have a sister and she will be here soon." It may not happen, but I do hope it does.

My boy will be a great big brother. He's already told me he will share his toys, look after the new family member and show them how to take care of the cat. If these aren't great reason to join us, I can't think of any better ones.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The phantom flan flinger was nowhere to be seen...

After ten years together Hubbie has devised the perfect celeb couple name for us. You know the ones they use in magazines like Heat and on Popbitch to describe people who are dating, married or just hanging out together. There have been many variations: Brangelina (Brad and Angelina), K-Patz (Kristen thingy and Robert Patterson) and of course back in the day one of the first was Bennifer (Ben Affleck and J-Lo). Well, we were thinking, what would ours be and Hubbie nailed it with the eminently suitable: Tiswaz. It also has the additional benefit of encompassing the silliness that keeps us together. We don't actually throw gunge at each other, but we do have silly catchphrases and characters with daft voices.
How we are now

I was amazed this week when I posted this pic on Facebook of us having lunch and almost 50 people (some of whom I don't even know) liked it. We don't usually celebrate the anniversary of when we met, but Hubbie had a random day off this week and with the boy at school we decided to go for lunch. If you've been with me a while you will know that I will use any excuse to make an occasion out of something so I nominated it as an 'anniversary lunch.'

Hmm yummy :)

Well, why not ? I mean, I clearly remember the first time I saw Hubbie across the classroom of the evening class in journalism that we were both taking. He was hunched over his desk chewing a pencil and was wearing a suit - clearly straight from work. He looked ever so young - didn't we all - and was a bit of a know-it-all. I know, I know, I can talk.

We bonded during breaks talking about music - I was also learning to play guitar - and politics. I discovered we had a shared love of travel and had been to the same gigs - if not at the same time. Our shared competitive instinct meant we would go on to become pub quiz regulars. Family is important to both of us and ours live far enough away for us to miss them and near enough to get to if we want to see them.

The main thing we've learned in our ten years together is that we are always on the same side. While we may not always agree we are loyal and supportive to each other. Our boy is rapidly learning this ! I'm not sure that we have any special knowledge to impart in our new role as the newest celeb couple on the block, Tiswaz.

Other than make sure you laugh a lot. With each other, at each other, about each other.

Ask my boy and he'll tell you - we even laugh at him :)

The way we were then :) 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Iron woman

[Trigger warning: this post talks about domestic abuse - it is not graphic, but does refer to violence in relationships]

I have come to the conclusion that Helen in the Archers is the new Little Mo from Eastenders. I predict an 'I am woman hear me roar' storyline in the future where the scales finally fall from her eyes and she sees the cheating lying Rob Tichner for what he is and exacts a suitable revenge on him. In Little Mo's case she clouted Trevor round the head with an iron. I suspect with Helen it would either be a whole wheel of cheese if she was at work or one of her son Henry's stickle bricks in an awkward place if she was at home.

Woman in abusive relationships is an ongoing and much repeated storyline and I'm not entirely sure why it's so popular or common. It's not like a woman is going to hear it and suddenly think, "Oh ok, now I see. I have to leave my home with my children and go away from this place and be in the bosom of my loving soap opera family."

I have both witnessed and lived with bad relationships. I don't mean stealing your moisturiser bad. Or a refusing to call you back or turning up for a date about 3 hours late bad. I'm not even talking about the one where they deny you broke up with them so that their record of always being the one who dumps and not the one who is dumped remains intact. Yes, all of these have happened to me in real life. In fact most of them were the same person.

What I mean is actual physical and psychological harm. The first was revealed to me on arriving early to help set up a birthday party for the 6 year old child of a friend. They hadn't arrived yet and when they did I asked the birthday girl what had happened and she told me that Daddy had hit Mummy and made her bleed. I was horrified and she looked so sad. When her parents walked in all smiles she did the same and it wasn't mentioned again. To my shame I didn't ask them about it and years later when he had been in rehab and was sober he told me he used to hit his wife. I was so angry with him for it and with myself for not talking to her about it. For not asking if she was ok. I don't know if she'd have told me anything as I was an old school friend of her husband's. I still should have talked to her. At the very least been a friend to her. I should have because I had been in a bad marriage myself.

My Little Mo moment came when I went to pick up my things from the flat I had shared with my first husband and he was there trying to stop me. We argued over a dish drainer that had cost 50p from Woolworths - I left it behind - and other petty things. He threatened me and I looked at him, all 6 foot 4 of him and said, "if you're going to hit me, just do it." He went quiet and I packed the car and left. I call it my Little Mo moment - even thought it happened years before the storyline - because it also involved an iron (although not as violently). I don't iron, I just don't. However, I took the iron with me. Maybe out of spite or maybe because I had paid for it. I just don't know.

So, this came to mind when I was listening to the Archers last week. How standing up to a bully is terrifying and you don't want anyone to know how pathetic you've been to stay with him for so long. You know how at the end of programmes they now say, if you've been affected by any of the issues in this programme call this helpline ? They don't do that in the Archers and I really felt angry, bitter and upset. It was like a trigger that took me back to a place I had forgotten. A person I don't recognise any more.

It's only a soap, but it's not made up. Women stay in bad relationships - as do men - because they have no choice or because they are manipulated to stay. I did. I hope Helen realises soon that this is not a good relationship and that she and her son are better off without Rob.

I can lend her an iron if she needs it.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Hey pop pickers !!

As it's the end of the first week (back) at school for a lot of us, I thought I'd share a little something to make you smile.

Recently I've been sharing silly images I've created depicting  song titles on Facebook under the title, "Guess the song."

Now it's your turn to wrack your brain to try and work out these little beauties.

Pop your answers in the comments below and if you get all five I'll think of a prize for you :)

Song 1
Song 2

Song 3

Song 4
Song 5

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

No more a baby and not yet a man.

You know how you see a forlorn tiny mitten in the street, or a sock that has lost it's mate ? I feel sad for the child who has lost it - and to be honest for the Mum who won't notice it's missing until she's home or at least too far away to go back and retrace all her steps to find it. Well, once I had a child I realised how easy it is to lose things - often just the mundane things like socks or mittens. I thought I was very adept at taking care of the valuable toys and loved cuddlies. Until the day he dropped Ellie in the supermarket. 

He was sitting in the trolley and wanted to hold the toothpaste tubes so I let him. Then when we almost reached the till I asked where Ellie was and he said he didn't know. I frantically asked everyone if they'd seen Ellie and they said they hadn't. Some were genuinely concerned until they asked what she looked like and I described a small fluffy orange square with a trunk on one corner that was all chewed and smelly. The concern on their faces was palpably reduced when they realised it was a comforter that I was looking for and not my missing daughter. I'm not being too dramatic when I say I was distraught. I looked at my son and with tears filling my eyes I said. "I'm sorry we can't find Ellie. He looked at me and said, "It's ok Mummy, we have a new Ellie at home." He wasn't wrong. I had bought spares just in case of this eventuality. He styled it out with his seeming indifference to the loss of his most adored toy, but he never loved the 'new Ellie' the same as the original. So you can see why I thought my boy might have some experience in dealing with loss.

Today was my boy's first day at school. He's in the nursery, but it's in a school with uniform and book bags and all sorts of formalities that help get the children used to going to 'real' school. He finished at his old nursery at the end of July and we've been talking to him about the new school and what to expect. We have noticed he was getting a bit upset at times, like when we went uniform shopping or when anyone asked about 'big school' so we stopped calling it that and said, 'new nursery' instead. In preparation he had a haircut last week and every morning this week he has woken up asking, "Am I going to school today Mummy ?" In the last few days cracks started to appear, though, as he said, "Mummy I don't like my hair, I won't go to school until I get a new haircut." or, "I'm not feeling well, I can't go to school." I started to see signs of his fear and worry about the big new change.

Then today arrived and he bounded in to our bedroom asking, "Am I going to school today ?" and we said, "Yes, let's get ready." He had a wash, brushed his hair and then put on his uniform - causing his hair to get all messed up - so he brushed it again and admired himself in the mirror. We all got ready to go and he part walked and part scooted to the school. When we arrived he went straight in and started to play with some other children. When we called out to him he gave us a cursory, "yeah, yeah, whatever I'm busy." wave and we smiled and left the school. I didn't cry, but I did feel a bit choked and hoped he'd be ok. He hadn't eaten much breakfast and I know how ratty he gets when he's hungry so I wondered how he'd make it to morning break time without a meltdown.

When we went to pick him up this afternoon he was sitting nicely on the carpet and when he got up to come to the door I noticed he seemed a bit tired and down. He mithered all the way home, wanting to be carried and I assured him that he'd get used to walking - we both have to ! He wasn't too keen to talk about what he'd done or who he'd played with or in fact anything about his first day. Then we took him out for dinner as a special 'first day at school' treat. He was a bit moody and I put it down to tiredness, but he managed to wolf down a big milkshake and got a balloon from the lovely owner of his favourite diner so he cheered up a little bit.

After a bit of a fuss at bedtime. I went to his room for our usual end of day chat and calmly asked him, "Have you had a good day ?" He said no. Then he burst into tears. I mean massive wracking sobs that made his little - still damp from the shower - body shake. I held him close and kept saying, "It's ok. It's ok baby. It's ok." He cried and cried. I felt terrible - I wanted to cry too. This wasn't tiredness, this was something else. He eventually said, "I don't want to go to new nursery any more. I want to go to my old nursery." I held him close and said, "New things are a bit scary and it's sad when we have to leave somewhere we like, but you will like this nursery too." I asked him what he missed about the old nursery and he said, " My toys..." pause, " and my friends.' More tears. I held him closer and kissed his still wet head. He kept saying he just wanted to go to the old nursery and pleaded with me not to take him to new nursery again.

I felt my chest constrict and my throat tighten. We had spent time talking about the fun new things he'd be doing, but we had neglected to prepare him to leave things behind. Because he can count and and he is very funny and fluent in his speech we think he has a maturity that isn't really possible in someone who will only be 4 at the end of the month. I thought that because he was putting on a brave face he was dealing with this big change in his life. Up until now I've been sewing in labels, getting photos taken and dealing with the 'cosmetic' part of moving on. Now, the real work begins in helping my boy to let go of the past and move on to the future. To help him learn to have faith that things will get better. That this transition from knowing everyone and being well versed in what goes on to everything being new and unknown will only be temporary. The teachers will no longer be strangers and he will make new friends.

You see when I look at my boy I don't just see someone who can dress himself and who plays tricks on me and Hubbie to a make us laugh. I see the tiny newborn who I held close and kissed on the head. I see the smudgy scan that me and Hubbie gave thanks for. I remember the bump that we used to sing to and who I whispered to that I'd love and protect for as long as he'd let me.

If I can't let go of the past just like that it's hardly fair to expect my boy to is it ? It's going to take time.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Lost shoes, black & white photos and music - that's where the magic begins.

If we all have a book inside of us then I must have taken a few other people's share of books. I'm always coming up with ideas for stories and when I was younger I used to make up stories for my younger sisters. I created characters based on their toys and incorporated their favourite things into songs and stories. They still remind me of the silly songs I would sing during story time and it makes me blush. Hubbie does the same thing with our boy and I trust he will have some lovely memories of story time too.

So, the Big Idea are running a great competition and have asked what inspires me to write ? Well, to be honest I'd be hard pushed to say what doesn't inspire me. Overheard conversations, news events, absent-mindedly listening to the radio, everything does. I have, however, chosen some things that I find especially inspiring.

Photos: in my parents house there was a black and white photo on the wall unit - which was in the home of every family member. I had no idea who the Sikh man in the photo was, but he was very serious looking and quite young. When we were looking through my parents' wedding album I remember carefully turning back the crinkly tissue paper leaves that concealed magical images from another time and place, people I hadn't met and who I might not. I asked Mum who the elderly Sikh man was and she said it was her father. The man from the photo on the unit. I thought he had died long before I was born, but apparently he was alive until just before I went to India aged 2 and a half.  The story of time in between those two photos captivated my imagination and I have created so many stories based on that time period and the adventures he had.

Music: I love music and hearing a tune or a short clip of music often reminds me of a moment or a place and immediately I have a story taking shape in my head. Growing up with Bollywood music in my home was amazing with the contrast of the sombre and romantic ballads and the crazy pop tunes. From soothing tones to upbeat dance numbers all songs are the potential soundtrack to the script in my head.  

Walking is inspiring
Walking: I used to walk everywhere and would often see things that would make me stop. People having an argument, or an unusual event going on. Having travelled for work I have spent a lot of time observing the world around me. I remember seeing a jacket on the ground by a telephone box - it was sad and sent my mind swirling into the possible reasons for how it had ended up there.  By the time I was home I had imagined the whole tale from the messy break up to the girlfriend throwing the clothes out of the window and one thing being left behind in the melee. 

Windows: Looking out of trains, buses, hotels and in fact any windows provide a wide range of
opportunities for finding stories. The shoe on top of a bus shelter could be either a heartening tale of childish high jinx or a sad and frightening one of bullying. It entirely depends on what mood I'm in whether the tone is dark or light really. 

There is so much more that inspires me, but I'm not going to go on about it. I've got writing to do over here. Now go shoo, get out there and live a bit to get inspired yourself :)