COSTAffective

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In a week of week of worrying lows and  a few frightening firsts I’ve done well to keep my head above water!  My first tooth extraction was more than traumatic. There was a rush job to A&E that I certainly hadn’t factored in.  Then there’s my Dad whom I love dearly, and well-up over daily, as I try to drag him from this almighty despondent funk.

I don’t know about you – but I have the odd day where I’m a bit at odds with the world, a lost cause.  Unfortunately they’ve been scarily frequent since losing Mum.  I adore my kids – but as they grow, I worry more, I work harder to please them and to fulfil their needs and my lot are a full time job!!!  Whilst they’re getting older and wiser and more interactive, which floods me with pride and joy,- they’re getting more active and more and more demanding on time, and energy and finances .. blimey and I’ve got three!

So, after his Elite football match on Monday Jem tells me his boots are too small (I later discover they’re lost without trace!) and he needs new ones for his match – next week.  We seriously have so little time, I spend my days bumbling mindlessly from one job to the next, from one set of multi-tasks to another and… well…  fitting everything in is a challenge in itself … my TO DO list getting longer not shorter and it’s harder than an Impossipuzzle!

My objective for the past few days has been to update a report on my eldest son, the last of which ran to more than 40 pages!  I can use last years report as a guide – but it’s a mixed blessing, I’m pretty much re-writing it.   Things with Archie are pretty fluid and ever-changing to say the least!  This past year has been a ‘toughie’ as my dear departed Mum would say.  Anyway, I’ve only really got through the first page (it’s all in my head and I’m a Pitman-fast touch typist – but..) it’s an emotional feat and … well, this week has been manic!

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Wonderfully manic in the main I hasten to add, clutching at the positive.  I caught up with a very lovely friend (an ex-colleague) that I hadn’t seen in ions and when she finally made it to my humble abode (she had no sat nav and her geographical skills are even worse than mine!) I couldn’t have smiled wider!  She came bearing gifts; the most beautiful bunch of white tulips and Easter treats for the kids (both appreciated and gratefully accepted) but SHE was the ray of sunshine.  We had the biggest hug on arrival, it was like bringing part of my warm and cosy past back into existence.   It was REALLY great to see Jeni.  You couldn’t get a word in edgeways as we fought for air space – desperately trying to catch up on the past 20 years in a couple of hours as well as fitting in a plate of hastily prepared sandwiches and a slice of courgette and lime cake with strawberries and cream too (Charlotte you might be an Angel that’s flown – but I think of you often and your love and support will live on in Arch and your tasty legacy will frequently fill our tummies xx).  There has been SO much gone on for the pair of us. Jeni has two handsome sons, a little older than mine, handsome (I know I said that twice) and equally talented.  I couldn’t wait to share in her super excitement that her youngest son’s up and coming band, District 12, has just been signed.  I’m thrilled for him, and moreover for her, and can’t wait to see what the future holds for them.  I’ve caught glimpses of wonder from her Facebook page – but can only expect to see more and more fabulousness in the months and years to come…

I digress ,… so I caught up with a dear old friend (blimey I sound 90 – but tbh I bloody feel it too), I ferried the kids to and from school, to and from after school clubs and extra-curricular activities … Oh and to and from A&E which wasn’t such a quick jaunt!  I’ve had my Dad for tea, and phoned him every hour or two to check up on him … he’s particularly lonely of late and is a constant worry to me (after all I’m all he’s got left of our trio *sniff*).  All the usual housework (cough, splutter), my work in school with the lovely Year 2’s, the pain management, the underachievers prep for Easter, the constant emails and phone calls to ensure Archie’s continued care and all the guff and nonsense rammed in amongst … oh and that blessed report which is as depressing as it is long and that I’ve still barely started… So, let’s say it has indeed been a ‘toughie.’

Yorkshire Tea

Yesterday as a stand alone wasn’t easy – Pete was in London and I had to manage the dismantling of Archie’s bed and the delivery and erecting of a replacement – new one.  I have to say both teams of lads were impressively efficient and pleasant, fuelled on mugs of strong Yorkshire tea.  I’d promised Jem that we’d nip and get him some new football boots after school, if our over-worked Angel, Eloise, was happy to be left in charge of Arch and Scarlett.  She’s done a sterling job this week, of covering for Angel Heather (who’s whooping it up in NYC).  She’ll be so very glad that Good Friday gives her an evening off!  Eloise agreed with a smile, so, as suggested, when she arrived we jumped in the car and headed to Guiseley.  IMG_7669 (2)

We rang Dad on the way to get him out and get him involved.  I was feeling particularly guilty that with my appointments, pain, and panicky trip to A&E, I hadn’t seen much of him this week, thus far, and I do feel terribly responsible.  Anyways, as I said, I rang to remind him to meet us there, despite the fact that I’d spoken to him at least 4 times through the day and mentioned and repeated the time and place numerous times already.  

Messi boots

Traffic wasn’t great (rush hour) so when we arrived and he wasn’t there we padded about outside the store and gave him some leeway.  Minutes later, I thought I saw him heading towards TK Maxx, and rang his mobile, he didn’t pick up.  He was heading back to his car some way away and we spotted him as he climbed in and started the engine (we feared he was leaving already)- so Jem ran over at great speed and grabbed him!  We did the whole boot thing, swerving the bright and very lovely,but slim fitting Messi’s (that one of his best friend’s has and he desperately wanted) for a pair of equally shiny, impressive and ‘comfy’ Nike.   (I paid,despite his kind offer – I don’t want him to think that we’re inviting him everywhere so he can pay, because he’s so grateful of any company he always offers, and I for one don’t want to take advantage of his generosity – that’s certainly not the idea … money is immaterial, love and assurance is key).  I wanted my Dad to think he was there for his invaluable football insight – after all, I know absolutely jack on the subject, and my Dad not only captained Guiseley an exceptionally good and award-winning team. (I’m really so bad that I fear that’s not the term – but you get my gist).  Besides, my Dad thinks the world of his Grandson and is incredibly proud of his sporting prowess.

Dad Guiseley Football Captain

 

Anyways, my Dad spent 30 minutes turning his nose up at the girlie pink ones, saying ‘They di’n’t make ’em like that in my day’ and wowing at the selection.  ‘We had black – that’s all – just black – none of this poncy lot’ – God love him!

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We had an hour or so, before Eloise’s curfew, so we decided to nip into the not-so-new-but-it-was-to-me-because-I-don’t-get-out-much-Costa in the Next store and my Dad was again keen to pay so I relented on this one.  He’d spotted a delicious looking Bakewell tart (his favourite) and Jem was dead set on the sight of a triple chocolate muffin and grabbed his favourite Innocent smoothie (he’s still not forgotten of when I took boxes full of Innocent smoothie’s into his school after I acquired them for a little writing job I’d done … oh and not forgetting a muffin to take home for Scarlett.

London, Brent Cross, Costa Coffee Costa Coffee Bakewell Tart Innocent SmoothieCosta Double Chocolate Muffin

Dad coppered up, but we agreed there wasn’t enough change, and decided using his card was a better idea.  When we got to the counter and put in our drinks orders he had his card in hand ready to pay,  but after several attempts at jabbing it into the machine every which way (that slot’s not an easy target for me never mind my Dad), when he finally got it in and punched in the number it failed.  I’m guessing he’d forgotten or used the number of another card.  I could see his frustration furrowed in his brow and knew he had plentiful funds – but he’d definitely forgotten his number.  The kindly young girl at the other side of the counter must’ve seen the drama playing out.  I scrabbled for my purse watching my Dad’s eyes droop with worry, all the while allaying Dad’s fears and calming him saying it was OK and that I was happy to pay.  He was beyond exasperated.  The young cashier suddenly rang the drinks and cakes through and passed me the receipt – ‘It’s on us’ she trilled with a smile.  I looked at her quite agog, apologising profusely for the mix-up and blithered on about having the money and opening my purse but she shooed me away … It’s one of our ‘Little Acts of Happiness’ she assured.  I asked and double-asked but her colleagues all smiled and nodded in agreement – so I thanked and double-thanked and ushered Jem and Dad towards an empty table with tears in my eyes and a hefty lump in my throat.

My Dad was totally baffled, worried and touched all in one.  His face was a picture and he was teared-up too, albeit with a smile and we all agreed it was a really AMAZING thing to do. It couldn’t have happened on a better day at a better time.  They’d timed their act to perfection!

After the day I’d had I couldn’t have been more appreciative.  It’s random acts of kindness, such as this, that truly touch me … and I don’t mean just those personal to me – I get choked hearing and seeing of others too.  Just recently a partner of a very good friend of mine had been at a ‘hole in the wall’ in London and with worldly weights on her shoulders and a whole lot on her mind she’d walked away without her cash!  A homeless man sat nearby had alerted her to her mistake.  She was so grateful and so appreciative – that she’d returned to the machine, withdrawn another £10 note and given it to him.  I love her all the more for that, for him for his honesty and it’s things like this that bring a salty whoosh to my eyes and make my heart beat so much stronger.

I drove home yesterday with Jem clutching his new boots and a big smile on my face.  I was truly touched.

We had all made sure that we thanked the staff on leaving Costa and Dad gave Jem a few pounds to add to their tip pot.

I gave the young girl one of my ‘business cards’ (don’t laugh – I know I don’t work per se and I’m no longer a 9-5 whore, but after a trip to the International Women’s Day Conference in Harrogate a few weeks ago, I had to get more cards from Moo to replenish my stocks) I explained to her that I’m a blogger and that I’d be mentioning her act of kindness.

So, pretty Costa girl, if you’re reading this, I want you to know that you made a massive difference to my day yesterday.  In a tough week, where I’ve had bad news aplenty, important tasks galore and an A&E trip already and you probably saw how my Dad is becoming such a worry to me and tonight was a real wake up call.  I just want to say a very geniune  Thank You Smiley

On a week that had otherwise hit the skids you provided a lifeline, a ray of light and your act of kindness really hit a high note.  It’s acts like this, from people like you, that make the world a better place.

Costa having acted in such a genuinely lovely way and wavering our bill today, you saved my father’s pride and my sanity.  I think of all the people reading this, and those that I will mention it to in passing – it will prove more than cost effective.  I do hope this post raises your PR in a very positive way and proves beneficial to your footfall and profits.   For whatever reason your ‘Act of Happiness’ made it from Board table to staff member, it has and will work wonders.

I ended yesterday with a smile.

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15 Minutes ….

They said the best way to exercise your brain and to get your creative juices flowing was to ensure you write for 15 minutes every single day without fail … ideally on rising.  ‘They’ being the very lovely local poet and author,James Nash, and accomplished author Alison Taft.

Hmm … I grumble at my daft busy life and wonder when that’s ever possible – but just sometimes on occasion I manage to fit it in.  Usually just nonsensical blurb recollected from dreams or just anything to put pen to paper – but this morning was different.

I was up at 5 with no dreams to remember and a ridiculously busy day ahead of me – but when I logged into my emails there was a competition that got beneath my knuckles and urged me to type.  It asked for a childhood memory, a first memory perhaps of a holiday or somewhere I’d visited.  Straight away I thought of the picture framed in our hallway of all my family together.  It was outside Bingley Show at Myrtle Park in the early 70’s.  Now I don’t know if I actually remember per se or it if was just that I remember so well the wonderful stories my Mum and my Dad have recounted of that day.  There in my buggy, by the entrance, when approached by a man who had a couple of monkeys (not dissimilar to ‘Marcel’ Ross’s monkey in Friends) and a parrot.  The man was asking for donations in a metal bucket and for people to befriend his animals – whilst his friend was then asking for money to take a photograph.  It was a sunny day and our family were calm and relaxed it would seem … See my Dad with said parrot on shoulder!  My Mum said initially I wasn’t at all happy about the monkeys, but after a minute or two they nestled with me in my pushchair and when it was time to move on I bawled and bawled and bawled and I believe that was my ‘status’ for the remainder of the day!

Anyway .. this is what I wrote this morning …  (It’s rough and unedited, but I hope it paints my picture – oh and also it’s not supposed to be quite so maudlin as it sounds).

 

I’m SO GLAD that my parents had a picture taken,

(because I know it was a huge deal back then),

Paying for such a luxury treat,

– and then in theory paying again,

I can remember being quite scared,

– yet quickly turning that foe into friend,

Then crying, and screaming till my face was quite blue,

– not wanting that friendship to end,

I feel much the same of my brother,

– just shy of 2 years more than 3,

That I lost one fine day – oh so quickly,

When he’d meant all the world to young me,

I still see his face and his fondness,

 and the way he would readily share,

And despite that the loss is just so long ago,

I still can’t believe he’s not there,

My poor mother she never recovered,

From that fateful day in my youth,

Two losses in one,

Her father and son,

Her strength and her love living proof,

She passed on her brave and her able,

‘Cannot do’ wasn’t in her remit,

When I want to give in,

Her steed sets in my chin,

And I can’t – though I could… I admit,

But the cancer that finally killed her,

Broke the rulebooks and me all in one,

They call it the silent killer,

It deafened and extinguished my sun,

I loved her with all of my heart,

(With exceptions for those equal shares),

One day she was laughing and lovely, and then,

She was taken from me unawares,

I’m blessed I see her in my children,

Creativity, beauty and strength,

I’ll ensure that for me her memory never fades,

And I’ll recount all her stories at length,

As my Dad too he fades now I ponder,

– I’m the last in my line standing strong,

As I smile often times at this photo and think

…. Life’s a monkey … and then it is gone!

young france family

Leapin’ All Over February!

I started this month with every good intention going.  I spent January feeling fat and frumpy  … and I needed to step up for the sake of my IBS.  I need expert help to get me back on the straight and narrow – I’m meaning more like low calorie foods that people enjoy and that fill them up, or drinking a glass of water before a meal – rather than those encouraging words ‘Step away from the kids sweet jar fatty!’ –  or ‘Put that glass of wine down thunder thighs!’ Obviously they too have a great effect – but I needed some positive reinforcements rather than admonishments that make me feel as bad as I look!!  Pete convinced me to do Diet Chef with him and, after not much persuasion, I am. It’s perfectly pleasant , in fact it saves me a whole host of shopping, preparing and cooking, but in just shy of a month I haven’t lost any weight (in fact I put on nearly 6 pounds in the first couple of weeks!!) and he’s lost nearly a stone!  I’m not impressed. (Shrugs) … but the jury is out for now, until we cease this fad or run out of money … whichever comes first!

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Archie has a lovely new PA, who’s been on board since just before Christmas.  A medical student (how handy!) and a vegan (how frightening!)!  It’s not like I’m a massive meat-eater, but I don’t have much experience of vegans.  I like to try to accommodate the PA’s as best I can and to feed them whilst they’re with me, especially if they’re here over mealtimes (not that I’m bound to by contract – so on days with all the to-ing and fro-ing it’s truly impossible and I try not to feel guilty,  but I figure it’s only polite and I am a bit of a feeder/over-hoster and therefore if I can, I will)… anyway where veganism is concerned I’ve been coming a bit unstuck.  There’s only so much fruit/veg/salad combos that hit the right note.  I’ve been trying really hard and it’s quite frankly astounded me – some of the slightly bizarre things I’ve passed off as perfectly edible vegan food.  However,  I did recently come across a recipe for ‘Easy No Sugar Energy Bars’ and they’re vegan too.  I managed to sample (prior to me starting Diet chef I hasten to add) and they’re super tasty – although I have modified them slightly, to appeal to my tastebuds even more http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-easy-3-ingredient-energy-bars-at-home-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-184306  For my personal recipe  it was more than the 3 ingredients of the original.  I found it a little dry so I bound it together with coconut oil and more dates and I added sunflower seeds and flax seeds.  I found that almonds and dried cranberries with a handful of sultanas  work really well and taste lovely.  I’ve since paired down the fruit and added more seeds and nuts and a hefty tablespoon of vegan raw cocoa powder, as a chocolatey alternative.  They really are super easy, anyone can make them, and they taste fab … and it means I can now offer Archie’s PA a cuppa and a piece of this, even if we have nothing else remotely vegan-friendly in the kitchen.  It stores in the fridge for some time too.  Win:win 🙂

 

Secret Love Son

I’m loving Little Mix & Jason Derulo’s Secret Love Song  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgy7vEje5-w

I first heard it just before Christmas and it’s steadily grown on me.  Jason Derulo’s voice, in fact Jason Derulo full stop…  is beyond gorgeous.  His vocals set my pulse racing and I think the Little Mix girls sound particularly good on this track too. I think all of a sudden they’ve taken a step away from poppy ‘pop’ and show a bit more depth and maturity and it really, really works for me.

Another hit with me at the moment is Coldplay’s  Adventure of a Lifetime https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtXby3twMmI&list=PLzyYbaYKbahnEmFJFyxlURFHhSc74l5C7 The lyrics really resonate and when it comes on the radio it brings tears to my eyes in a good way.  I’ve always been a Coldplay fan and I think this track really shows their talent and everything I’ve come to love about them.

 

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Yorkshire is known for its weather extremes – normally of the adverse variety… but during February it’s been cracking the flags one minute and snowing the next and my lips are literally cracking up!   I really struggle to find lipsticks and lip balms that work for me, as I’m really sensitive and have a lot of allergies.  Pete found me this one and put it into my stocking at Christmas and it’s really come into it’s own of late.   At £15 a pop it’s not cheap… but it’s worth every penny.  It’s light and doesn’t leave a residue and my lips instantly feel relief. https://gayacosmetics.com/shop/lip-balm/

 

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I’ve left an almost comfortable pause since the diet talk, so I’ll tell you now all about another discovery!  I found Joe & Seph’s popcorn some time ago (if you haven’t tried it you must -it’s beyond delicious), but, with the help of a small competition win, I discovered their Salted Caramel Sauce.  Now, obviously, I was sticking to my diet – but I knew someone who would appreciate this just as much as me, if not moreso.  It was my Dad’s birthday in February and it would have been rude not to make him a cake.  As, we didn’t want the remainder of a cake in the kitchen, Scarlett and I decided to make cupcakes instead and I made a chocolate buttercream, infused with the salted caramel sauce and dressed with the popcorn.  They seemed to be a hit.  We shared them amongst the rellies at my Dad’s birthday dinner and the remainder we distributed around the neighbours – so no excuse for naughtiness!  Oh, and I didn’t hear any complaints!

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 My jaw is still TOTAL agony and when the pain killers are wearing off I’m a total cow!  I wouldn’t want to live with me right now.  I have however consulted twice now with the very lovely top expert at Yorkshire Clinic,  Mr Stephen Worrall, and after an MRI it’s not quite as serious as first suspected (so fortunately no new jaw for me, for now) …. continued pain relief and anaesthetic patches and hopefully the pain will up and go.  If not I’ll be right back.  In the meantime I’m instructed to practise my ‘resting bitch face’ for the least discomfort and I believe he said limited chores and the odd glass of good wine would help too, in fact anything to release the happy hormones … I’m certain that’s what he said!  He also clarified that it has absolutely NOTHING to do with talking – just in case you were wondering!?*

 

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But never mind me .. the medical highlight of my month has to be the trip to A&E with my soldier and the fact that, to cut a long and dramatic story ever so short, I spent just shy of an hour with my well-manicured (and fortunately surgical gloved) finger stuck in Archie’s gastro port (hole) after he decided to pull it out and in the absence of anything else suitable I just had to improvise!!  Massive thanks to CBeebies who entertained Archie for the entirety of the trauma (although it did add to the general excitement and wiggling) and of course I extend my thanks to the young surgical doctor with gastro training who finally excused herself from theatre to sort him out so that I could extract my finger and put it to better use!

I’ve been filing and decluttering at a rather impressive rate of late.  Not that you’d notice as an outsider at this early stage … but I’m on it and after such a great start I can but continue.  In this area February was a proactive milestone for sure!  The start of things to come, I’d like to think.

 

This Morning

THIS MORNING, years and years on, it really is a good day time programme.  I have to say I love Lorraine Kelly (met her years ago and she adored Tetley – so she’s a star in my book), and I miss Fern Britton terribly.  I honestly didn’t think I’d warm to Holly but she’s too lovely not to!  I particularly liked the opening glimpse I caught after the NTA Awards when they were still in their glad rags and confessing to being hungover.  That was a little bit of day time ‘comedy gold’ right there! I also absolutely love the honest expressions and understanding of Holly – she still has that heart-warming naivety that she just can’t hide.  Her and Phil have a lovely bond and I love the laughter at that bloopers.   Although I’m not quite sure anything will ever top the ‘Dunking Beef’ moment of hilarity way back when https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWIodGH2TIQ … I also love the innocence of Gino Di Campo – if his Grandmother had wheels she could be a bike don’t ya know! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6rQQrP9tZ4  Classic. Anyway – I digress … what I was going to say was, I caught quite a bit of the show on 27th January (laid on the sofa with my Day Nurse feeling thoroughly lousy). (I know it’s February – but I lost my notes and this was too good not to include).  Since then I’ve been ‘bouncing batteries,’ and I can’t wait to decorate!!  I have to say though – as much as I love a good ‘Post-It-Note’ (they’re all over the place in my house), so long as my keyboard keys are firm – I shall always use a hoover nozzle – as that trick left me feeling pretty bilious!  This said, I just love a good life hack (and Steve Wilson is quite cute too)!

This year’s off to a CRAP start, for me and mine at least, … so, as it’s a leap year – February is going to be a restart – we’ll chalk January down to bad timing. In February – I’m going to; find my mojo, stop shopping on the internet for expensive stuff that I don’t need, take more care of myself, give myself some time, step away from the alcohol and the sugar, start de-cluttering, organise re-decorating, oh and get a bloody grip.  I’m teetering on the brink …. but I’ll be damned if I’ll allow myself to slip over!

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I also have to rave about the theatre that we saw last month (well 31st of January if I’m perfectly honest) but this was seriously good theatre and I couldn’t not mention it.  I’ve not been to Hull Truck Theatre before – but it was far more modern and more impressive than I imagined (think Yorkshire Playhouse on a slightly smaller scale).  It was welcoming and sitting close to the stage you almost felt part of the show!  Imagine 2 hours of just 4 actors in a hugely impressive production and you probably wouldn’t get close.  We’re talking side-splitting humour, compassion, music and a welcome dollop of burlesque for good measure with undertones of jazz and hysteria to hold it together.  Exceptional musicians, sharp acting and the 1940’s costumes were absolutely spot on.  Together with a hefty portion of cake during  the interval (and a Red Devil energy drink to keep me awake after a long day) and my perfect night was born.  

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I believe Bugg’s brilliance is still doing the rounds around the country, so if it comes remotely near I urge you to try it.  You honestly  won’t be disappointed.

 

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I’m not sure if this is over or under or what … but I did find out last month,,, after some time of giving it no thought and completely forgetting about it , but I just discovered that I actually featured in a Mali music video!?*  Ario Star who is BIG in the music world in Mali and beyond (apparently) on his track Djuguya!!  It certainly made me smile and after a handful of plays to show the family the tune really grew on me.  Seriously, watch it from start to finish – I appear in it more than once … One to chalk off the bucket list I reckon!  I just wish my Mum was here to see it, I can remember mentioning it when I got back from Ibiza and she thought it was hilarious and that I was totally bonkers.  In a word – she’d have loved it and would have been telling everyone who’d listen! Ha!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEFeHyQx8dI

So I shall basque in the light of my pop video fame whilst wearing my resting bitch face, and leave you with that hopeless image, whilst hoping that March jogs on quite nicely.

Go and Love Yourself

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Life is unpredictable.

It’s Mother’s Day tomorrow and I’m melancholy.  I’m spontaneously bursting into tears at the silliest things and two of my children (those that are able) question my sadness and hug me.  I’m not sad.  I’m devastated that my Mum isn’t here to hug and to cherish, to have a glass of bubbles with and for me to spoil with presents and a home made cake (a skill that she taught me).  I’m remembering all the wonderful creative things that I learned under her loving guidance;  the traditional talents, abilities and dexterities, the manners, the survival skills and the important things that I try every day to relay to my children.  I constantly worry that I’m a good enough Mum.  I had direction  and advice, up until last year, a coach, a confidente and the most trustworthy friend,  All of a sudden I’m in a lonely place and worryingly I’m just winging it!  Hell – I miss you Mum!!!

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I’m hyper critical of me and everyone else for that matter and that’s one thing I really dislike about myself … but I’m trying to change.  

I do see all the wonderful things that my friends do and say and I marvel at their originality and love in the way that they raise their children.  I see the challenges they face and the way that they overcome them.  I share in their joy and I am equally proud of their accomplishments.  Sometimes I’m more than a little envious of their exotic holidays, their amazing achievements – particularly of those things that I know (due to our limitations and constraints with Archie) we will never do.. but I try not to be bitter, instead I make mental notes of all the fabulousness, in the hope that opportunities may arise for us in the future.

Having children makes my focus in life very different.  I bite back the words when I want to laugh and jeer and say ‘Oh look at her’  or ‘Look at him!’ ‘I can’t believe he said that.’  ‘How terrible’ and ‘How awful.’  Mocking someone else to make yourself feel better isn’t big or clever and I’ve come to realise that.  Similarly trying to live up to unrealistic images of perfection isn’t big or clever either.

Justin Bieber – I salute you and your fabulous tune,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyEuk8j8imI but the more I listen the more I play with your lyrics in my mind.  I’m trying to decide if you scorn your ex-lover or you release her to just be … she obviously wasn’t perfect – that’s for sure!

… We all did that thing at school where we spat it out like an insult .. ‘Look at her she loves herself,’  ‘He’s such a show off he loves himself’ … and now I’m wondering if that’s such a bad thing.  With all the hurt, the damage and the self-abuse in this world, I wonder if self-love is such a bad thing, it certainly beats self-loathing.  I wish we had more of it this ‘self-love’.  I wish I did.

Even at the tender age of seven my daughter points to what she considers flaws and that really, really vexes me.  I go through periods of self-doubt (albeit in private and in the main in my head) and only recently, after having a Boudoir Shoot at Mark Swinford’s, (at which I was as nervous as hell) did I come to a truce with myself.  Standing there under the harsh lights in front of a lens and that constant clicking I have never felt more exposed or more vulnerable. I spent the whole session apologising and making excuses for every part of my being from my particularly large nose, to the size of my thighs, to the multiple chins and the bingo wings.  In fact the only thing I don’t remember excusing was the redness of my hair – something that I’ve learnt to love and to be proud of.  Such a shame some of that fire didn’t extend to my belly.  Lucy, the photographer, couldn’t have been more reassuring and not in a false – ‘You look fabulous’ sense – but in a ‘You’re a real woman’ sense, and if you lay like this, this angle works wonders, if you turn like this, etc, etc,  However, she wasn’t bossy or steadfast in her style .. she encouraged me to show my personality and asked for suggestions towards the different shots and styles of pictures.  We chatted throughout – discussing our hang ups, our families, her job, feeling empowered … the only silence was during the shots and even then she was showering me with words of encouragement!!  I came away feeling a great deal more confident, and knowing that if anyone could get a good photograph of me she could.

When I was called back to the viewing I was excited, but incredibly nervous again.  After the initial slideshow, I began hyper-critically discarding shot after shot, despite assurances from the lady operating things that these were in fact great shots. and that if I wasn’t happy this bit could be airbrushed and that bit could be photo-shopped.  Now, I know I’m far from perfect, but seeing it there before my eyes and hearing this lady’s offers of modifications actually brought some clarity, and not necessarily in a bad way.  Instead of being shocked or repulsed I began looking at the pictures again, from a different angle, embracing some of my imperfections and showing  a little acceptance .

Only last week my daughter had screamed when she came into the bedroom, pointing out that I had a massive bruise on the back of one of my legs where a vein had burst.  Unfortunately for me thrombosis and venous problems run in our family.  My Mum and Granny both had horrific problems with their veins.  Indeed I’ve already had a massive operation on my varicose veins a few years back…. Anyway, I digress.  It turns out I actually found a handful of photographs that were actually pretty complimentary of my 40+ years and, more importantly, other than a massive bruise on one of my thighs that looked a lot like an ink spill, I said no to any great amount of ‘doctoring’ but chose for the odd black and white shot (more flattering) and the odd filter!  If there was any major change, modifications and air-brushing it wouldn’t be me, would it?  I don’t have to compare myself to the Victoria Beckham’s and Victoria’s Secrets models of this world because I’m not and never will be one of them.  It’s time to accept myself as I am and show my beautiful daughter that we’re not perfect and that that is perfectly OK!

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I’d be hypocritical if I had heaps of alterations showing a flawless body that belied my life in those 40-something years.  I’ve had three children and more major surgeries than I can shake a wand at – and will never have a washboard stomach again – believe me I’ve tried and failed and however much I cut out sugar and do 1000 crunches of a morning it isn’t happening.  I flatly refuse to forgo that glass of wine on a night … because that’s what keeps me sane.

So many times models, stunning girls, when not in front of the camera, preach about what a false world they live in.  They look amazingly perfect and they are on screen and in magazines .. but back in the real world they’re not perfect.  Many admit to having real hang ups too.

I’ve been in photographic studios and I understand what it takes to get those flawless images, the same goes for film sets.  Photographers and cameramen alike know the tricks of their trade, they know about angles and lighting and how to defy age and gravity and I can only applaud them for that.  I love to see magazines of beautiful women and men, and I love to see films featuring beautiful people too, but I live in the real world.

I do believe that if you’re happy it shines from your face, I really do believe that, however good an actor someone is (and I’m not talking on screen now!) – it’s hard to hide upset and turmoil of a certain degree.  That’s not a bad thing, but when you’re truly happy it shows.

I think acceptance is key here.  I believe everyone has flaws, whether visible or not.  No one is truly perfect.  What matters is being the best person that you can be.  I don’t mean visually I mean inside where it counts.  A good heart, a generous soul, these things hold far much more importance.  I realise now I’d far rather be a nice person than look fabulous.  I’d far rather be trustworthy than wear the latest fashions.  I’d far rather go that extra mile in a pair of flats, that not even step outside of my comfort zone in a pair of 6 inch heels.

That doesn’t mean to say I don’t want to wake up in a morning and put some slap on and select an outfit that I look and feel good in … but it means I’m doing it for all the right reasons, ….. for me.

I want my children to learn that perfection isn’t the ‘ultimate’ and that we learn from all our flaws and our failures. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want them to push themselves to their limits and drive themselves to succeed, but I want them to be accepting of their capabilities and to understand themselves and their limitations.  Yes I want them to be fabulous and to be the best at everything, what mother wouldn’t … but I want them to be happy more.

Acceptance is key.

So, here we go – I’m not a size 0 … on a good day I’m a healthy looking size 12/14 and on a bad day I’m a bloated and cranky 14/16!  Most days I have at least 2 chins and the skin on my underarms, and on my thighs, flails a bit when I run (so these days I prefer not to go at any speed faster than a rushed walk).  I like chocolate and I really like wine – so nothing is going to change any time soon.  My nose is a little large and a little bulbous (but it’s a family trait) and my teeth are never going to rival Cheryl’s (I shan’t put a surname here as I’m at a loss as to what to call her right now)  (but then I could never afford her pearly whites and I’m not a fan of dentists).  I still love designer clothes .. but these days I’m more TK Maxx than Harvey Nic’s … although I have been known to splurge in a sale and hide things in the bottom of my (not so) walk-in wardrobe from my other half until a significant amount of weeks have passed so that I can say ‘Oh this old thing!’  I’ve never been spotty (I had to have one bonus point), but now my wrinkles are more prominent (although I like to refer to them lovingly as laughter lines).  My maths still isn’t A-stream – but I can calculate the correct change and am happy to kick up a stink if I’m short-changed.  I’ve been told I can string a pretty good sentence together and I still hold just enough determination and ambition to believe that one day I’ll write a novel that will get published.  In the meantime, I’ll sit on the sofa, annoying everyone on Facebook and regularly blogging, whilst encouraging my children to both behave and to eat healthily whilst momentarily keeping my fingers out of the biscuit tin.  Whatever happens I will take ownership and be master of my own destiny and ultimately try to love myself!

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Jess Glynne, I’m with you.  I’m all for pushing that dark cloud away! Don’t be so hard on yourself is the moral of this story;  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THeLVhU53ow

Life and criticism is no longer a threat.  I think it comes with age, but – I’ve realised that I’m not all bad and it’s ok to ‘love yourself’ for what you are and not at anyone elses expense!  So, I’m doing just that….  I highly recommend it!