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LIFE Midweek Musings

Midweek Musings: Life updates

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More trees today, sorry!

Long time no blog. I apologise. If I’m honest, I’ve been a bit stuck for topics. Now Daphne is older, there isn’t so much to write about her on a regular basis (although she’s changing all the time, of course, it’s all quite subtle now and we’ve settled into a reasonably happy routine). I’d love to blog about the house but the truth is we’ve done a big fat NADA to it since we moved in. I don’t know how people manage to do up houses with babies/jobs/lives.

But here are a few little updates, just to reassure you I haven’t died:

  1. We have found a childminder! From January, Daphne will be going to a lovely lady in the village next to ours for one day per week. Even this feels slightly traumatic/scary, but at the same time, incredibly exciting as it means a whole day to myself to do whatever I like! Well, mostly work, of course, but still. I will have time to reply to emails, to plan stuff, to get ahead, to work on my book… I cannot wait.
  2. I have finished the first draft of my novel. It’s a bit of a mess (a massive mess in fact) but still, I’m really pleased as now I finally know what the story is about, and how to fix it. I had my critiquing session with my group at the Faber Academy last week (we share our first 5000 words with each other and give feedback) and it went really well, which was reassuring. I am sure it’s super boring reading on a blog about someone working on a book, but I have and I’m afraid it has been taking up most of my headspace lately, leaving little room for anything else. But I’m going to have a bit of a break from it over Christmas, and then get stuck in with the redraft in January. If anyone’s interested as to what it’s about, let’s just say it’s about new motherhood not turning out exactly how someone had planned…
  3. And on that note… I’ve been having a real think about the blog lately. When I first started blogging after Daph was born, it was as an outlet for all the experiences I was going through that felt so alien and new. But now I feel a bit more sorted (not much, but a bit) and also more like I should stop with the oversharing, as if I’m honest, I don’t think it’ll help me try to relaunch a career (more on that in a minute). So I’m trying to work out how the blog can fit into this new way of thinking. I don’t go to glamorous events anymore. My restaurant review days are well and truly over. My life on a day to day basis is incredibly mundane. I’m not one of those supermums who does crafts round the clock with their offspring, providing plenty of blog fodder. I could blog more about interiors, but somehow that doesn’t feel like it fits with the content I already have on here (plus there are a gazillion interiors blogs out there already). So yes. I need to make some decisions. I want to know what people find (and don’t find) interesting, so if you fancy sharing what YOU want to read about, that would be awesome and very helpful. I try to be honest about motherhood, and these posts do seem to be the most popular, but then I worry I sound like a right moaner… Generally it seems my real life friends like reading the personal stuff as a way of keeping up to date with my life when everyone’s so busy, but for those who don’t, I’m sure it’s a massive snorefest. Pondering pondering… and open to suggestions!
  4. Careers. Hmm, I shouldn’t write much about this really, but I am feeling so so saddened by the state of my former industry (magazine journalism). I haven’t done proper journalism for ages now, just bits and bobs here and there, but still, it was a bloody awesome job while it lasted. I found out the other day that the interiors website I worked on for four years from launch has been rebranded and basically turned into a shadow of its former self, with loads of staff being made redundant. I nearly wept! It is crazy how journalism has just died a death thanks to the internet. So yes, in 2017 I need to start making some firm decisions about what the hell I am going to focus on for the rest of my working life. SCARY stuff. I have written a list of priorities for my new career, top of which is not having to commute into London every day. More on that soon…
LIFE

Running on empty

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No one told me that once you had a toddler on your hands, you’d be covered in bruises. And that every part of you would ache. But it’s true. I am literally covered in bruises as Daph is constantly knocking into me, throwing things at my face (my mobile phone has hit me in the eye at least five times in the past two months alone), and generally requiring me to save her from imminent death and thus injuring myself in the process. It is full on protecting a one year old from their many and varied attempts to harm themselves. Since having her, I’ve had about 300 colds, another bout of norovirus, shut my finger in my car door and lost a fingernail in the process, dropped my (switched on) hair straighteners through my finger tips losing lots of skin in the process, bashed my arm against our banister trying to stop the pushchair from knocking a huge glass-framed picture over (yes, really) and then last week, I topped it all off by falling down the stairs. While holding her.

She now weighs about two stone (not joking), and somehow I managed not to drop her as I fell (meaning she was absolutely fine), but this achievement left me feeling like I’ve been in a car accident. I have a bruise the size of my palm on one buttock (it’s gone purply-black now and is very impressive – I’ve been sharing bum-selfies with everyone and anyone I know well enough not to judge me), a huge bruise on my elbow where I knocked it trying to lessen the fall, and polka dot bruises all down my spine from where it bumped its way to the bottom of the stairs. It bloody hurts. Every part of me hurts. My neck (which has never not hurt thanks to a career spent hunched over a computer screen) is now a complete write off – leaning down to haul Daph off the floor 1200 times a day means I am rapidly turning into the hunchback of Notre Dame.

I am exhausted. Not just physically, but emotionally, mentally and any other bloody way you can be. I had booked a spa break next week with my sister, and I was so looking forward to it (and the hot stone massage) but unfortunately we’ve had to postpone as we’re going to a funeral instead. That just about sums up 2016.

The upside to all this moaning is that I am incredibly excited about Christmas and the new year. 2016 has been one of the hardest years of my life for so many varied reasons (not the worst, but the hardest), and has also been pretty shitty for most people I know. So all I can think is that stuff is going to get better. The only way is up! Last night, Daph slept from 7pm to 7.20am when we had to go in and WAKE HER UP. I am taking this miraculous event as a sign. Things are going to improve. Just a few weeks left of this godawful year – hang on in there people, we can do it.

LIFE Midweek Musings

Midweek Musings: Simple pleasures

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Blame the fact I’m reading The Handmaid’s Tale at the moment, blame the fact that November seems to be dragging on unbearably long, blame the fact that I haven’t been out for dinner with friends for nearly ten weeks now as I’ve been totally housebound six nights a week, meaning adult conversation is somewhat limited – whatever it is, I’ve been in a very reflective mood lately.

The other night, I made Oli do some silly quiz someone had posted on Facebook – a bit like Mr & Mrs, you had to answer questions about the other person. One of them was ‘What do you like the most about me?’ and, somewhat incredibly I think, Oli said my ‘positivity’. I nearly fell out of bed (we were just about to go to sleep). I try very hard to stay positive, but I do have a tendency to moan on – for me a bit of whinging is cathartic and I do love a good rant. Generally speaking though, I’m quite a content person. When I moan I’m trying to make light of things – it’s my way of dealing with stuff, trying to turn it into some silly exaggerated joke.

Having said that, I have been trying really hard to be positive lately, which has been really tough, given the state of the world in general. There’s an interesting message in The Handmaid’s Tale which basically says ‘we didn’t know how good we had it until it all changed’ and that’s kind of how I feel about the state of things world-wise at the moment. It’s all very good thinking change will be better, but what if it’s not, what if it’s worse?

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Anyway, in order to counteract this rather deep-seated sense of malaise and fear – especially as I have a little one to think of, imagining the world she’s coming into is terrifying quite frankly – I’ve been trying to appreciate the small things in life. Each day, trying to live in the present (which is one of my top tips for coping with life in general actually). I do think having a baby makes you appreciate the simple things – it’s a cliche because it’s true. I used to be all about fancy events, expensive clothes and handbags and, well… showing off, and while I do still like most of these things (!), they seem to come at a price. But it’s the little things that now bring me those small thrills of excitement, like you used to get as a kid.

So, here are a few of my simple pleasures. Things that make me smile. I’d love to hear yours too.

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  1. Cold walks wrapped in big coats. Watching my breath mist in the air.
  2. Online shopping arriving (especially when it’s something cute for the baby).
  3. The smell of Christmas candles. Candles in general. Let’s be honest, they don’t have quite the same effect on long summer evenings.
  4. Lebkuchen.
  5. My daily gin and tonic once the baby is asleep at 7pm.
  6. Writing. It’s been hard – I’ve written about 76,000 words now, done over just nine weeks, and am nearly finished with the first draft. But it’s so satisfying to be working on something that I feel passionate about.
  7. My blow fan heater. Economical it may not be, but god that thing brings me joy. #toastytoes
  8. The baby running around naked before her bath every night and being ridiculously excited about it.
  9. Getting a decent night’s sleep after a year of not doing so. Just waking up and not feeling exhausted is amazing – I will never take sleep for granted again!
  10. The Missing. I don’t watch much telly at all, but this is addictively good and I get very excited when I realise it’s Wednesday and there’s another episode on.
  11. Christmas coffees – OK, they are responsible for around half a stone in weight gain each year but still. No one has to see my white flabby thighs, it’s winter.
  12. And on that note… no one has to see my white flabby thighs, it’s winter. I don’t have to shave my legs every day and faff about with fake tan. Hurrah for low-maintenance beauty.
  13. The colour of the leaves on the trees outside my office window. It’s insanely beautiful. I have tried photographing them but my windows need cleaning and the pictures don’t do them justice. Instead, please enjoy these recent pics by my professional photographer sister. Suffice to say, nature beats everything.

Oh god, have I just described hygge? Shoot me now.

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LIFE Midweek Musings

End-of-week Musings: the UK cat killer

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Our beautiful mog Percy

Apologies! This post is late – again. I’ve had food poisoning/norovirus (no idea how you tell the difference) over the past few days and have been in an absolute state. On the mend now finally, thanks to lots of rest and dioralyte.

This week I wanted to do a quick post about the UK cat killer. A bit random, I know, but actually it’s something I’ve been following lately and it’s really upset me. For those not in the know, there’s a horrible sick git out there taking great pleasure in killing (often decapitating) cats late at night, and leaving them for their owners to find. There’s been more than 100 confirmed murders now, most of which have taken place around the M25. But the police are still no closer to catching the person responsible.

I wanted to write about this because since we moved house, we’ve wondered what to do about Percy and his access to the garden. We have a cat flap in our living room, but as our downstairs is completely open plan this means he can come and go as he pleases, leaving a trail of muddy footprints across our carpet/rug/sofa/dining table/everything (he loves the new garden, and he especially loves digging in the mud). So when we go to bed, we’ve taken to shutting him in the downstairs loo (should add, it’s quite a big loo!), with his bed, litter tray and food etc. It feels quite mean to have him confined to a relatively small area all night, and we were considering getting a cat flap fitted on the loo window too so he could get outside that way, but we’ve decided not to do that until this terrible person has been caught. It’s just not worth the risk.

So yes, that’s what I wanted to say really. Just in case you hadn’t heard about it and have a cat that you love and want to keep safe! Please spread the word. The official advice from the people investigating this killer is to keep your cats indoors at night – most of the killings have taken place over night. If you want to read more about it, there’s an animal rescue organisation in South Norwood (the killings started in Croydon) who have all the information you could need, and there’s lots of stuff in the press too. This is a good article.

LIFE The Confessional

What I miss about living in London (and what I don’t)

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Beautiful Wisley Gardens – a 15 minute drive from our new place

I’m going to be honest with you, having to blog is quite painful right now. Mostly because I am currently trying to write 10,000 words per week of my novel, which means five evenings a week I’m doing 2000 words. I’m having Wednesdays off as that’s when I go to do my session at the Faber Academy. Sunday is my Day of Rest (the only day that Oli doesn’t work, and so the only day we get to spend as a family). So having to open the laptop again today is a little bit depressing, but I don’t want to stop blogging because I do so love the sound of my own voice. And I’m sure you lot do too (heh heh).

(On a sidenote, trying to write 10,000 words a week, last thing at night after the baby has been bathed and put to bed, and I’ve cooked my own dinner, is quite challenging (read: exhausting). I am slightly regretting my over-enthusiastic target. However, I know that if I don’t stick to it I won’t finish my first draft by the time Oli finishes his show. So, onwards till my fingertips fall off and my brain is completely fried, etc etc).

But that’s not what this post is meant to be about. We’ve been living in the new house for a good three months now, and I wanted to share my thoughts on the things that I miss about living in the Big Smoke (does anyone call it that these days?). So here goes, as always, being completely honest…

  1. The shops. This makes me inordinately shallow, I am aware. But I miss living near good shops. We were about a 20 minute walk into Wimbledon town centre from my old flat and it really had most of the things you needed, thanks to the wonder that is Elys department store. There was also a massive M&S right next to my flat, full of lovely baby clothes (plus ready-meals for lazy days), as well as a Mothercare and a Dunelm Mill (yes I lived by a retail park, yes it was ugly, yes it was bloody useful). Where we are now has a decent enough town centre (big Sainsbury’s) but it’s all very chainy and depressing – Next and Monsoon and places like that that I’d never go in (retail snob). It also has a teeny Debenhams. Debenhams is the shittest department store of all department stores. I’m sorry, but it is. Who actually buys Debenhams clothes? Someone must do, but I am still bewildered by why they would.
  2. The transport options. The tube is disgusting and overcrowded and filthy, but my god, is it convenient and easy. I was about five minutes from the tube in my old flat, and I also had buses galore outside my doorstep (this also had its downsides obviously) and could get to Oxford Circus in 20 minutes. As well as this, I could walk to Wimbledon and get on a different tube line AND the overground, so transport options were plentiful. I can’t overestimate how important this is if you’re travelling into town on a regular basis. It just makes life SO much more pleasant when public transport goes tits up, as it invariably does.
  3. Deliveroo. Deliveroo deliverdon’t round here. (I am a little less upset about this after reading that they are shit to their staff.)
  4. Indie restaurants. We have Pizza Express, GBK, Wagas, Carluccio’s – all perfectly serviceable for a quick lunch. But there’s nothing that special on our doorstep – nothing unique, no interesting new cuisines to try. There IS however an awesome chippy, which we have been to about 97 times since moving in.
  5. Public services. No, not dodgy loos or telephone boxes. But things like the doctors and dentists. For all its faults, London seems to be pretty well catered for when it comes to your health. I could walk to both my doctors and my NHS dentist from my flat, and both were excellent. Since moving here I’ve been looking into finding a new GP for us all and most of them aren’t taking new patients – as for NHS dentists, it’d be easier to find a Labour voter. Surrey people seem to like paying for the dentist. I don’t understand why.  I am so cross about this, in fact, that I’ve decided to carry on going to my old dentist for now. If this is immoral or illegal, then please tell me off in the comments (not sure I’ll care however).
  6. Uber. I suspect Uber does operate round here (just about) but the price of a cab home from central London would be about the same as our weekly shop, rather than the £15 or so it used to be.
  7. Oyster cards. I should have put this one up there with trains really. But in order to get into town now I have to buy a paper ticket! It’s so quaint! It’s also very confusing, what with off-peak this and super off-peak that and restrictions on what time you can sneeze at London Waterloo… We’re just outside zone 6 out here, so we also have to shell out more than £20 for a one-day travelcard. Ouch.
  8. Last but very not least – my friends. I miss my London pals. Most of my friends are still London pals (although hurrah for school friends who live near where we’ve moved to!). A few London mates have moved out, like us, but many of them are still in town and lots of them are in SE London, which is a proper trek from me now. Sniff.

BUT do I regret it, despite all this? Absolutely NOT. Here are just some of the things I love about living out of London…

  1. The space. This counts for about five points up there I think. We have space! We have a big garden. We have a front garden. We have a garage. We have off-street parking. It is so lovely not to feel hemmed in on all sides by people and buildings and traffic. It’s the most freeing, stress-releasing thing ever. Big thumbs up.
  2. The air quality. It is awesome. I walk home from the station and maybe one car goes past, and I realise that I can’t smell drains or fried chicken or diesel fumes. OK, so it’s not quite the Scottish highlands, but I really think it’s made a difference to the way I feel.
  3. The people. There are less of them which just makes everything more peaceful, and hands down, people are politer. People in London are so busy, so stressed, so ‘in the middle of something’. Here, people take time to smile at you, hold doors open, have little chats with Daph. It’s so strange, in fact, that first of all I found it a bit unnerving. But whenever I take Daph to Sainsbury’s we get stopped by the cashiers, or little old ladies who want to find out how old she is (and try to make her wave, which is embarrassing, because she usually blows them a raspberry instead). But it just feels so much friendlier as a community. This has surprised me a lot, because I always thought London had a great community feel, but I guess that was just pockets of people in amongst lots of transient people who were just there for work or whatever. So it never felt quite like this. The neighbours here are all very friendly and came round to say hello as soon as we moved in, but they are polite enough to keep their distance too.
  4. The proximity to my folks. OK, this one is a bit niche, but it’s lovely that I’m now only a 20 minute drive from my parents. It’s made babysitting opportunities much more frequent (hurrah!) but also means we don’t have to sit in terrible traffic every time we want to visit them.
  5. And on that note, the traffic. It has its moments round here (school rush hours etc) but mostly it’s A DREAM. Wimbledon is basically a 24 hour car park. I could easily spend 25 minutes driving a mile and a half. I wish I was exaggerating, but if you’ve ever sat going nowhere fast on Kingston Road you’ll know I’m not.
  6. The proximity to parks and stuff. And the countryside. And the motorways. All pretty self explanatory – because we don’t have to negotiate London traffic to get anywhere, everything’s a lot more accessible.
  7. The quiet. You can hear a bloody pin drop outside our house. It’s insane. And on that note, have I mentioned that cul de sacs are AMAZING? Everyone should live in a cul de sac. It puts your quality of life up by about a million percent. As well as your Amazon Prime expenditure (my ‘safe place’ = my front porch).
  8. The hedgehogs. We have hedgehogs in our garden. NEED I SAY MORE.

So yes, that’s my little round up. I’ll probably think of a million things to add to this later but for now I’m off to have my dinner. Hope it’s helpful if you’re trying to make a decision to move out of London or not. I will say that without Daph as a priority, we probably would have stayed in Wimbledon, but I’m so glad we didn’t because I really do prefer this way of life now. Call it old age, call it tired of London, tired of life, but I think there’s something really important to be said for slowing down the pace a bit, taking time to appreciate peace and quiet. It’s made a huge difference to my wellbeing.