Life by Lotte »

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  • HELLO!

    Welcome to my home on the web.

    I'm Charlotte Duckworth, an interiors journalist, now running my own digital content agency DECORUM, with my fabulous business partner.

    I also write novels.

    This is my little self-indulgent navel-gazing blog - feel free to have a nose around!

    Charlotte x

18 Weeks

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Today I am officially 18 weeks pregnant. Apparently my uterus is now the size of a cantaloupe (ick), and my baby (foetus?) is the size of a sweet potato.

First thing – in a list of many – that I find bizarre about pregnancy: the continual size comparison to fruit and veg. Apparently my baby today weighs the same as a chicken breast, and a chicken breast is pretty much the same size as a sweet potato, so why it couldn’t just be described as like a chicken breast is something I have pondered a little today.

Pregnancy has had me pondering many things. And so I thought I might start blogging again so that I can share these ponderings to look back on in the future. Also, I am obsessed with pregnancy blogs and vlogs at the moment so it seems rather churlish not to join the party.

So here are a few of my inaugural discoveries from the last three and a half months…

1) People are very nice to you when you’re pregnant. Most people anyway. Not my dentist receptionist however, who told me with a gleeful smirk that hygienist appointments are NOT FREE for pregnant women (when I politely enquired), only dental treatments. Anyway. Others are very excited for you, and as a result, you feel you have to be too, when actually most of the time you’re more terrified/in denial. People keep asking me if I’m excited and all I can think is that I’m not sure because it doesn’t really feel real yet.

2) Pregnancy makes your body do weird and mostly unpleasant things to you. Well, duh, everyone knows about morning sickness and the temporary boob job but no one mentions the other things – like oddly itchy skin; being unable to shower before eating because the heat/steam makes you dizzy; weird lower back and hip pain; throbbing leg veins; a frightening inability to remember anything; the constant toilet trips in the middle of the night making you terrified of drinking anything after 8pm; the cravings for ice in all drinks – or just very cold drinks; the weeping at everything on television; the ABSOLUTE hanger; the fact that spicy food now seems 20 times spicier than it did before… And this is just some of the SFW stuff. I’m not even going to start on the fact that no one told me that every day of my pregnancy I would have to wear a panty liner. I’m almost missing periods.

3) When you march into the doctor’s and tell them you’re pregnant, they don’t bother to test you, they just believe you. And merrily go ahead and book you in for scans and midwife appointments and all the rest of that jazz without EVER CHECKING YOU DIDN’T JUST MAKE IT UP. The novelist in me is wondering how long a phantom pregnancist could get away with this for… Oh and when you are pregnant, the NHS sends you a Maternity Exemption Card which means you get free prescriptions. Accompanying the card is a letter requesting you return it in the event of a miscarriage. Given this arrives at the point when you are most terrified you may indeed miscarry (before 12 weeks), it feels like an incredibly cruel piece of paper. I did actually stare at it for a while thinking I would keep it if I miscarried, just to spite them for being mean.

12-week-scan

4) Ultrasounds make me cry. I paid for an early scan because – as has been the common theme of my pregnancy thus far – I was convinced that there was some mistake on the four tests I did and that this couldn’t be real. Anyway there I was at 8 weeks plus 4 (this another thing, you can no longer remember your phone number but you always know EXACTLY how many days plus weeks pregnant you are) and the scanner woman shoved her little probe on my (flat) stomach and found the baby straight away. And I burst into a weird combination of tears/giggles, meaning I couldn’t keep my stomach still, making the whole process impossible and making her tut. I don’t know why it made me cry/laugh but it did. Seeing it there felt so unreal – almost like an out-of-body experience.

5) Discussing anything about being pregnant, or the baby, makes you terrified you’ll jinx it and something will go wrong. Same goes for buying maternity clothes or things for the baby. The fear of miscarriage is something I can’t imagine will ever leave me – especially not those dreaded ‘missed miscarriages’ which are supposedly rare but which as soon as I started talking to friends about found out that everyone either knew someone who’d had one, or had had one themselves.

6) When you are pregnant, you have no control over anything. This is maybe the crux of the whole thing. I’m a control freak, and now I’m no longer in control of my body, my emotions, or my fate. It’s an interesting situation to be in, requiring a lot of attitude-altering, and one which I guess will continue after the baby is born…

7) There’s nothing quite like seeing your tiny baby with its oddly bony spine and little flickering heartbeat on an ultrasound, doing a little jump for you, and being told by the sonographer that he/she looks perfectly healthy. It feels like the best Christmas Day you ever had as a kid, multiplied by about a million.

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Spooky headless 18-week bump

Reading this back, I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m complaining. In truth, I am amazed but also utterly terrified and continually surprised by all the things that have been happening to me and my body.

Pregnancy is a huge learning curve and I find it endlessly fascinating. There’s so much that you just don’t know – or expect – and it’s this that I want to blog about, so that I can look back and remember what a miraculous, life-changing time it was. And laugh at my naiveté, in the same way my friends-with-kids have been smiling at me knowingly ever since I told them my news…

March 25, 2015 - 10:23 pm

Kat Russell - About Point 2, be prepared for the fact that after you’ve had the baby your centre of gravity is off. The first shower I had afterwards, I turned around to step out of the bath and nearly fell over because I wasn’t used to not having a bump anymore.

March 25, 2015 - 10:24 pm

Kat - Enjoy the bump getting the hiccoughs. It is so weird :)

Dartmouth: my happy place

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I’m alive! (As you will know if you’re unfortunate enough to follow me on Twitter, where I never shut up).

Apologies for the ENTIRE MONTH I had off from blogging, but quite frankly I needed it. Things have been super brilliant, scary, exciting and stressful over at Decorum and we have, in fact, *drum roll* just moved into our very own office. This is rather unbelievably exciting, because it’s a bit like all my childhood fantasies coming true. Do you remember playing ‘shops’, ‘post offices’ etc as a kid? No? That was just me then. Well, just BELIEVE ME, there can be little more exciting than a Staples-run to buy stationery for a real-life office, that you can set up exactly as you please – it made me feel about eight again as we stacked envelopes on shelves and opened packets of highlighters.

However, the success of Decorum has meant that I’ve developed a bit of an allergy to WordPress. I look after six blogs for work now, all on WordPress, so the thought of spending my free time also resizing images and fiddling about on this delightful platform became less and less appealing. Hence me avoiding poor Life by Lotte.

But it’s 2014! January means one thing to me: getting older. Last week I celebrated my THIRTY THIRD birthday. This is very strange because I definitely haven’t been alive for that long. But anyway. For the first year in forever, I decided not to have a birthday party. Instead I escaped to my happy place: Dartmouth. I hope to die in Dartmouth. Weird thing to wish for I know, but I am weird – I wrote a book about suicide.

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O and I spent two nights staying in the wonderful Dart Marina. We always stay in the apartments because they are only a little bit more expensive than the hotel rooms and it means you get a bathroom each (which is always nice eh girls), a proper kitchen for making snacks, a fire, a cosy living room and you don’t have to stress about having dried your hair in time for breakfast. I heartily recommend it.

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Dartmouth is the best place in the world. I don’t really want to talk about it too much because it already gets busy enough and even mentioning it makes me nervous of even more people turning up and hogging it, but there’s nowhere on earth like it. It’s stuffed full of independent boutiques, restaurants and lovely people with dogs who chat to you as you walk past. And opinionated seagulls.

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The air is fresh and the views are incredible. I spent my birthday eating coronary-inducing amounts of cheese and cake and buying myself things from the wonderful galleries. It was perfect, and the perfect start to a new year.

2014 is going to be brilliant.

PS I will be blogging more frequently over on Daily Decorum!

This was meant to be…

… a post about the evening I spent in the company of the venerable author Donna Tartt. Last week she was over in London to promote her latest novel, The Goldfinch, which is only her third – any of you who know anything about her will know that she writes, on average, one book every forty years or something.

What you might not know is that when I went to meet my agent for the first time, before she signed me, she’d read an early draft of The Perfect Suicide and declared that it reminded her a little of blockbuster The Secret History. Which kind of blew my mind (also, with hindsight was superbly generous and possibly a little bit hyperbolic – I suspect the only similarity really was the university setting and general weirdness).

So when my friend Susie suggested we go along to a reading Donna Tartt was giving with Waterstones, I was thrilled and excited. It also coincided nicely with my mum’s birthday – and her request for a copy of The Goldfinch as part of the present. Great, I thought. I can even get it signed for her!

But then this happened…

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I came home after a morning meeting to find Percy had a massive great hole in his little paw. Cue emergency vets appointment, which meant my evening gawping at Donna Tartt was off.

By the time I got back from the vets – who declared that Percy’s injury was, somewhat incredibly, a cat bite* – it was too late to make it into town. So instead I sulked in front of the TV, glaring at the injured party, while reading tweets from people like India Knight going on about how great it was.

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Percy, clearly sensing my passive aggressive irritation, spent the evening looking cute and sad in equal measure.

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So, instead this post is about a daft ginger cat. And his long-running feud with Beryl the Bold Tabby next door. On this occasion it was very much Beryl – 1, Percy – nil.

Depending on whether or not you’re a cat-lover, you’ll be pleased to hear he’s since recovered well.

 *on a side note, I have since learnt that cat bites are really dangerous to humans. Who knew? Cats’ mouths are full of bacteria, and because of the shape of their sharp and pointy teeth, they puncture the skin with a small hole and fill it with bacteria when they bite you. After which, the hole quickly heals over, trapping all the nasty things inside, meaning that if you’re bitten by a cat, you’ve got a 50% chance of it getting infected. So if your cat ever bites you hard – go to the doctor’s and get antibiotics.

Hospital flooring

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When I moved into my flat, it was carpeted throughout the hall, bedrooms and living room. With worn blue speckled carpet that was stained in places thanks to the geriatric, incontinent cat that formerly lived there. One of the first things I did when I moved in was rip up all the carpets, including painstakingly taking up all the gripper things that were nailed round the edges of every single room. I had a week to sort out the flooring before I had to move in, so I slapped floor paint on all the floorboards, resolving to decide on a more permanent solution once I’d settled in.

And actually, for the last two and a half years, I’ve really liked my painted floorboards. But over time, and in the hall especially, they’ve started to look really really worn. ‘Not so much shabby chic,’ as my dad said the other day, ‘as just shabby.’

But the problem is, I’m completely stumped as to alternative solutions. I considered a stair runner but I can’t find any designs I particularly like, and they just don’t feel very ‘me’. Laying engineered wood flooring is another possibility, but it doesn’t really fill my heart with glee – it just seems safe, and a bit boring. It also doesn’t really help me sort out the stairs, which are also painted white and although aren’t as scuffed as the hall, are beginning to look a little worse for wear.

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When I redid my bathroom last year, I laid grey vinyl from the Colour Flooring Company on the floor – and although it was really just a practical decision at the time, I absolutely love it. It’s so easy to keep clean and is so warm underfoot and feels very hardwearing. It’s super cheap. And I think it looks really smart.

So yesterday I had the bright idea of laying vinyl flooring throughout the rest of the flat too. Well, on the top floor hallway, and in my bedroom. I thought I’d keep my stairs white, and just repaint them. I was thinking of a pale grey for the hallway and white for my bedroom. Excited, I scoured Pinterest for inspiration…

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Credit: Linxspiration

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Credit: The Colour Flooring Company Credit: Baenk
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Credit: Nordic Leaves

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Credit: Housetohome.co.uk

I thought my problems were solved!

If you squint a bit it kind of has that poured-resin/polished concrete effect I love… I even had grand plans about ripping up the existing flooring in the kitchen (horrible beige vinyl tiles) and replacing it all with a flat run of this stuff. But then I told my dad.

And he said it would make the flat feel like a hospital.

And then I told my friend Vicks, of The Relaxed Home fame, and she said it would be a nightmare to keep clean.

And so now… I’m just not sure again. Help!

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November 13, 2013 - 1:38 pm

Emma Whyte - Hmmmm. I’m with your Dad. Am currently in love with Remmers 2 part epoxy floor paint. Yes indeed ;) It’s designed for car show rooms so incredibly hard wearing, comes in any RAL number you like, goes on like a dream, dries in flash, the finish is dreamy and the whole thing is water based, so eco friendly. Try https://buyfloorpaint.co.uk/ if you’re interested. Great service, lovely people :) bye bye.