In defence of…..the snow day

It’s practically gone now, the snow. Gone and replaced by rain, which we’re all more familiar with. The rain means we can shuffle along with our heads down, hiding under our umbrellas or cosy hoods and ignoring each other. Snow, on the other hand, means smiles and chit-chat and a bit of a holiday atmosphere.

I’ve written about snow days before – about what a lovely thing it is occasionally for time to stop…..if you’re not desperate to get anywhere, that is (and anyone who is desperate to get anywhere has my sympathy). But over the last couple of days I’ve seen a few ‘Why-can’t-the-UK-cope-with-a-bit-of-snow?‘ type articles and…..well they made me want to defend our little snow day tradition. You know the sort of thing I mean – articles telling us how ridiculous it is that nothing runs, that schools are closed and that people can’t get to work when in snowy countries like Switzerland they deal with this weather all the time.

The school I work at was closed last Friday, and my children’s schools were closed too. I could see why – it is all very well clearing the site but if most of your teachers can’t get in then there’s not much point opening up. And so we headed to our local field which was a veritable winter wonderland. There were children sledging and throwing snowballs and looking generally overjoyed at their bonus day off school. There were parents in their biggest scarves and warmest hats talking about going home for hot chocolate and films. There was also my biggest boy who is all for a day off school but not such a fan of playing out in the snow, complaining that he was so cold he could no longer feel his feet. But that aside, there was proper joy out in that field.

Yes I know – other countries cope with snow all winter long. Their schools remain open, their trains run, everyone gets to where they need to go…..which is a good job really, because otherwise everything would shut down for months. Whereas when we get a tiny flurry, schools close, it’s on the news and we talk about little else. I do get it, and yes it is mildly ridiculous. But in the UK, and particularly in South East England, we do not as a rule get extreme weathers. The weather is often a bit bleugh in the summer, and still bleugh in the winter. Anything other than bleugh will be classed as unusual and talked about a lot. 2018 aside, when the snow just didn’t seem to stop, winter doesn’t tend to mean months of snow for us – we might only get two or three days of it a year. And because it doesn’t happen very often, we don’t have the infrastructure to cope with it. Our roads don’t cope, neither do our railways; and we don’t all drive around heavy-duty cars and trucks with snow chains on our tyres.

So yes, we are ridiculous over the snow, and other countries do cope with more extreme winter conditions far more successfully than we do. BUT…….well we put up with some pretty shoddy weather the rest of the year so please just picture the joy out on fields just like this one, and indulge us with our occasional snow days. They don’t happen very often.

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The yellow cup

It all started over a yellow cup. The tears, the upset, Mummy with her head in her hands saying she’s had enough and “you’ll be going without your breakfast at this rate.

A yellow cup.

Everyone used to love the yellow cup. Everyone loved the purple cup too; but things change quickly. The poor purple cup doesn’t get a look in these days and the yellow is just about tolerated….. but really, everyone just wants the boring old blue cup.

Usually we get over not getting our preferred cup pretty quickly; but when we’re feeling a bit fragile, as we often do on a Thursday, being given the yellow cup can be enough to tip someone over the edge.

Is it worth all this fuss?” Mummy asks the boy who is currently collapsed in a distraught heap on the floor at the very thought of drinking his breakfast juice from a yellow cup. “Does the juice taste any different if it’s in a yellow cup?” But Mummy doesn’t really know why she’s bothering. It is Thursday after all and if it wasn’t the yellow cup it would be something else. It would be the memory of a balloon that popped 6 days ago, or frustration at the fact that Mummy can’t instantly recall David Attenborough’s date of birth; or exasperation that Mummy can’t provide an exact date and time for when it will next snow.

You know how babies have ‘witching hour’ – that tricky time from 5.00pm, or even earlier, until they exhaust themselves and finally go to sleep? It always puzzled me how tiny babies even knew it was time for witching hour when Health Visitors say that you shouldn’t expect your babies to sleep at night because they don’t know the difference between night and day…..If that is the case, how do they possibly know when it is time for witching hour?? Anyway, these days we have a witching day rather than witching hour; and our witching day is Thursday. I do get it – by Thursday, you feel like you’ve already had a long week and yet you’re still not quite within touching distance of the weekend. So we tread carefully on Thursdays, because Thursday is the day that it’s all most likely to go wrong.

Mummy knows that it wasn’t really about the yellow cup. It was actually that I’m-so-tired-and-I’ve-already-been-to-school-enough-times-this-week feeling. That surely-we-must-be-at-the-weekend feeling. It was that my-brain-is-so-full-of-learning-and-I’m-just-going-to-find-a-reason-to-lie-on-the-floor-and-have-a-cry sort of feeling.

It was that feeling we all have after a busy week of school and parties and assemblies and complete and utter over-excitement because of a light dusting of snow.

Mummy knows it’s not actually to do with the yellow cup, but that doesn’t really help. She still has to sit down for a moment with her head in her hands and mutter “I can’t believe we we went through all of that OVER A YELLOW CUP” under her breath. Then the 6 year olds, including the 6 year old who just a few seconds previously had told Mummy that she obviously didn’t care for him one bit, come and give her a big hug; and after that everyone is happily eating their breakfast and telling jokes like it’s a perfectly normal day.

The tears are wiped up and three little boys trot off to school. They have forgotten all about the yellow cup.

But Mummy…..well Mummy looks broken and she’s not even at work yet. She puts on some lipstick, brushes her hair and then off she goes – an actual grown up adult person, still muttering about a yellow cup.

winter boys

 

Happiness alphabet

I’ll apologise now for the fact that this year’s posts will probably revolve heavily around the turning-40 theme, but milestone birthdays are there to be analysed aren’t they.

So, this is me in 2019…..I have three school-aged boys and I’ll be 40 later this year.

40.

(I’m not sure why I have this thing that writing it twice and putting it in bold will help it to sink in.)

Anyway, I think this is one of those times in life when a few things start to happen.  Firstly, it’s clearly the time for a bit of introspection. For wondering how it is possible to have gone from the Sixth Form common room to here when I still spend a lot of my life feeling like I’m just playing at being an adult.  For thinking back to what I imagined 40 might look and feel like; and realising that being nearly 40, or actually adulthood in general, isn’t really what I imagined it would be at all. It feels like a good time to do a bit of thinking about who I am and what makes me happy, rather than worrying about who other people want/expect me to be…….which is what tends to consume us through our teens and twenties.

The other thing that happens when you’re a mum is that it becomes very easy to hide. You suddenly have these small people who provide the perfect distraction if ever you want to change the topic of conversation or pretend you haven’t heard a question. They are the perfect excuse for not going out if you don’t want to, for not going to work networking events, for not putting yourself forward for things. You are suddenly able to make yourself very small, and sometimes that’s quite appealing. And then before you know it, those children are a bit more self-sufficient and all those excuses you’ve been relying on aren’t really there anymore; but you’ve spent so long hiding behind them that you then need to spend some time reminding yourself who you are.

So this is the first of many attempts to address some of the above. It is my happiness alphabet – just what it says really. Things beginning with every letter of the alphabet (well, almost every letter) that make me happy. I haven’t explicitly included my family in here because it goes without saying that they make me happy (as well as frustrated, furious and exhausted – sometimes all on the same day), so these are some of the other things. It is easy to forget about the happy things when you’re caught up in the everyday chaos but thinking about this has been a good little project, particularly for the start of a new year, and one that I’d recommend if you’re also approaching a milestone or just want to spend a bit of time focusing on the positives.

So here we go…..

Autumn leaves and adventures (big and small) make for a nice easy start.

is a good one. Bobble hats and ballet (watching, I mean); a good book, a blue sky, baking and bunting. A bit of bunting can make everything feel brighter. boy with bobble

C is for strong coffee, chats, cake and custard.

D is for Danish Pastries, preferably in a beautiful….

European square, with an espresso.

Friends – the ones you can be properly yourself with. They are precious. And I do love a good frosty morning too.

Grubby little faces after a day outside.

H is for a good hearty dinner. I’m all about comfort food.

I is for Italy and all things Italian…..apart from their chaotic politics.

Jumpers. Cosy ones (I know, there’s a bit of a theme here isn’t there…..I’m a cold weather sort of person).

K is obviously for Kettle Chips…..how can they not make you happy? And unprompted acts of kindness.

Little legs running free. Oh – and libraries, which have saved many a rainy day for us. We love our libraries. mince pies

is for Mary Poppins and mince pies. Mince pies whilst watching Mary Poppins is a bonus.

N is for a good amble around a National Trust. Bobble hats on and little legs running in all that lovely……

Open space.

P is for a bit of poetry – something I have got into over the last couple of years. It brings me a nice sense of calm……reading it, not writing it obviously. And a cosy pub with a fire.

Q is for quiet. I know I will miss the noise when it’s gone but a cup of tea and a bit of quiet is precious.

Reading something special. AND reusable coffee cups – it’s a simple change but a positive one. Let’s all start carrying one around and ditch the disposables.

S is for staying in when it’s cold outside. Staying in with Strictly Come Dancing is what Saturday nights were made for.

T is being at the theatre. I have this crazy idea that I might work in one when I’m a proper grown-up…..which obviously I’m not yet. And also ticking things off my around-the-house to-do list – I’m just not very productive, so any small achievement at home makes me happy.

Unexpected, spontaneous fun is U.

V is for an almost-veggie diet. I’m not a fully fledged vegetarian but cutting down dramatically on the amount of meat that we, as a household, buy and eat is a positive change which I feel really happy about.

W is obviously a nice glass of wine.

X is just silly, I’m not going to waste time thinking about that one.

Y is for Yuletide. Now there’s an old-fashioned word we don’t use much anymore….in fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever used it before now. But I’m a sucker for Christmas, for the twinkly lights, the cosy evenings, the mince pies and the family traditions.

Z is for zzzzzzzzzzzzz. Which is cheating a bit, but seeing my boys tucked up and fast asleep in bed still makes me feel all warm inside.

And that’s it. Give it a go – it’s fun. The only downside is that I now can’t stop thinking about Kettle Chips and mince pies.

 

frosty morning

New year. New term.

The stockings and the twinkly lights are down.

The school shoes are out.

The PE kits are washed (I think).

Going back to school after the Christmas break feels like a big deal. Not only is there the usual trepidation at the thought of getting back into some sort of routine, but it also involves eating fewer mince pies as well as having to say goodbye to all the tinsel and sparkle that has become a normal part of life.

In recent years I have decided that I am actually quite a fan of January. I like the clearer diaries, the calmer feel, the fact that everyone is too cold and/or too broke to want to do anything in the evenings. I even quite like getting everyone back into a routine……sort of. I’m just not such a fan of being in the routine myself.

I have always been grateful to have a job that works around my boys, particularly now that they are all school-aged – not having to think about childcare options during the holidays is an absolute blessing. But, there is also something challenging about being in the same pattern as your children, because it means that everyone is experiencing those peaks and troughs at the same time. Getting into a term-time routine, counting down to the next school holiday, experiencing the back to school wobbles…..it’s not easy helping your children through it while you’re also going through it yourself. It also makes you feel about 10 years old.

For some reason, the ‘back to school/work’ thing gets worse for me as I get older, and I always find myself starting to feel anxious and getting just a bit snappy as we near the end of the holidays. My boys have spent the last few days playing schools so I am taking this as a sign that they are ready to go back, even if they don’t realise it. But me? Well, I’m quite happy with the lazier mornings. With not needing to get up the minute my children wake. With later breakfasts and time for an extra cuppa.

It is never as bad as I expect once we all get into the swing of things but that initial getting-into-the-swing is hard work. This year I am attempting to conquer my back to school anxiety by focusing on small achievements. It is easy to get overwhelmed these days, simply because there is more coming at us from every angle – activities for us, activities for our children, things we think we should be doing / watching / experiencing / learning. The Christmas holidays are the perfect temporary escape from all of that…..a good excuse to immerse ourselves in lights, tinsel and Mary Poppins and forget about all the pressures from outside.

Getting geared up to re-enter real life is one of the challenges of a new year; and, having failed to tick off very much at all from my Christmas holiday to-do list, I will not be aiming to achieve anything too ambitious this month. There will be no dry January or new year detox for me (there are a lot of biscuits to eat up, after all). My aims for this month are simple – to focus on one task at a time, to keep on top of things as best I can; and mainly, to keep things in perspective.

Happy January everyone – here we go! x

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New year, new term. We’re all feeling a bit like this.

2018 was…..

I don’t like to wish time away (my mum always tells me not to); but even so I won’t be too sorry to say goodbye to 2018. It has been filled with challenging times and this, combined with continuing to juggle all the different balls that adult life requires us to juggle, has made it particularly draining. The fact that I have found my children more challenging than normal this year is, I’m sure, no coincidence – my temper has been short and my patience thin. All in all, I have found 2018 more than a little overwhelming.

BUT there have been adventures, memorable days and huge achievements; and I know that when I look back on this year I will remember the highlights as well as much as the challenges. Christmas has been the perfect tonic to a tricky year, particularly our Christmas evening drive around our local streets admiring the lights and listening to Elvis Presley (more on that in Twin 1’s section) which I know I’ll always remember.

I can’t possibly sum up a year in one post but I do like to have a go…..so this is my attempt at a snapshot of 2018.

About you:

2018 was the year that football attempted to take over our house – I have struggled with this just a bit. The constant football chat, the attempts to recreate matches with whatever you can find to kick around the house; and the chanting combine to make me want to go and hide in a dark corner. ‘We do not live in a football stadium‘ is one of my most frequently repeated phrases – I am starting to bore myself. As the year draws to a close I feel we are reaching a reasonably happy compromise….the understanding is that there is no football chat at the table and that we balance out our football fun with other activities and interests; of which there are many. Football aside, 2018 was also the year that you discovered a love for Italian pop music, or for one Italian singer in particular. In 10 years time, when wondering why you have an extensive collection of Italian pop music, you will probably ask me how and why this happened. Well, whilst rummaging around for something to listen to in the car one day, you happened to find a very old CD of mine from the year I spent in Italy. You then started to request it on every car journey, over and over – we listened to it so often that it was driving me mad and I decided to buy another just for a bit of variety. Since then, an Eros Ramazzotti CD has started to become a feature of most birthday presents in our house. I see it as our own little family stand against Brexit – while the nonsense continues outside of our car, we will continue to drive around in our own little bubble of European music.

Eldest boy – for Christmas you got a wonderful selection of books, a cosy jumper; and a pedometer which is, you declared very earnestly on Christmas day, one of the best presents you have ever received. You now record your steps every day in your journal. Your new interest this year is Mythology – you bought me Stephen Fry’s Mythos for my birthday in an attempt 20180715_103715to help me keep up. I have read it, but haven’t quite retained all the stories and names as you’d hoped I would.  Maps are still a favourite activity – studying them or drawing your own – as is writing song lyrics and inventing your own languages. With the help of a course over the Easter holidays, 2018 was the year in which you finally got the hang of riding your bike. It still isn’t your favourite activity, but you mastered it and I could not have been more proud. You joined a football team at the beginning of September and this has easily been one of the highlights of your year. Whilst football inside the house is driving me mad, outside of the house I can see how it has helped you to gain in confidence and come out of your shell.

Twin 1 – 2018 has been a transformative year for you, as well as being the year you finally got the skateboard you’ve dreamt of since you were two. For Christmas you got plenty of Lego, a colour-by-numbers book and an Elvis Presley CD – Elvis has been a favourite for the last two years (I can’t recall how or why this came about) and you can now be heard singing ‘All Shook Up‘ as you potter about the house. You have a compulsive spinning habit and are still something of a whirlwind, as 20181103_145719anyone would be able to see if they looked at your handwriting; but over this last year you have got the hang of absorbing yourself in an activity. Board games and puzzles have been a real feature of 2018; and more recently you have even been sitting down to read a book. I’m not always sure how much you are understanding but the fact that you are choosing to pick up a book is the most enormous stride forwards. When you are not absorbed in an activity you are always on the go – you are lean as a bean, a whizz at Junior Park Run; and Saturday morning football training is absolutely the highlight of your week. You race around that pitch high-fiving the other children looking like you’re having the time of your life….. although you have been known to let goals in because you were too busy spinning.

Twin 2 – Christmas present highlights for you were your George Ezra CD, a Watford FC football and a step-by-step drawing book. I feel you need a bit of encouragement to follow your own interests rather than feeling you always need to follow your twin, so right now I am all about bigging up your drawing skills. I call you our resident artist – if a20180421_140939 birthday card needs making, you are my go-to boy.  You also love your football training and are a little more focussed and less wayward than your twin; as well as much less likely to be spinning whilst in goal. You have always been an earnest little soul and your feelings are easily hurt. You come into your own when you have some undivided attention from an adult – you love a proper chat, and to help out….mopping the floor is a real, actual treat. When you’re in the mood you can be a bit of a performer – you love singing ‘I’ll be riding SHOTGUN‘ on repeat, and the first time I heard your Bruno Tonioli impression I had to double-check Bruno wasn’t actually in the house. ‘Oh my DARLING that was SPOT ON!‘…… and it really is spot on.

You watched….

Apart from Match of the Day, anything with numbers, scores and results has gone down well. The Eurovision Song Contest, the Winter Olympics, the European Championships – all were big hits. And once again, Strictly Come Dancing took over the house from September onwards, with you boys regularly attempting to recreate an American Smooth before school. Your main Christmas present from us was tickets for the Strictly Tour at the O2 – the excitement when we get there will be off the scale.

Weekend family viewing has become a thing, with Saturday Night Takeaway also being introduced this year (unfortunately also meaning that we had to explain what ‘Drink Driving’ meant) as well as Dr Who. And one rainy Sunday afternoon you eventually agreed to re-watch Paddington 2 with me – it is still a perfect film; and that was a perfect afternoon.

You read….

Eldest boy – well, having finished Harry Potter, we needed to find another series to keep your enthusiasm for reading going. The How to Train Your Dragon Series was a great one for you to jump straight into, and fortunately you then discovered the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan; which has fed your interest in mythology nicely. There have been other reading highlights for you this year – The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle was a wonderful read and The Phantom Tollbooth, Dragon Rider and The Explorer all went down a storm.

For you 6 year olds, this year has been about trying to move onto chapter books – I will not pretend it has been easy finding books that have engaged you; but finally we might be getting there (how is for another post). We battled through a few Beast Quests – the shiny covers went down well but nobody understood what was going on. The Daisy and the Trouble With books were usually well-received, and you will now sit and read The 13 Storey Treehouse series quite happily by yourselves – in fact, Twin 1 you are gobbling them up and I am just keeping my fingers crossed that this enthusiasm transfers onto other books.

Away from stories, we are all fans of The Week Junior which provides us with a good catch up on the week’s goings on (that includes me).

Out and about

We ticked two things off our family bucket list this year – one of which was Eurocamp and the other was getting the sleeper train all the way to Inverness, which I wrote about here. Both were real highlights of this year – I will never forget the excitement as we waited for that train to Scotland and Twin 1 telling me it was his ‘best life ever‘.

Aside from our bigger adventures, weekends are now mainly dominated by football but during school holidays we have continued to enjoy pottering about at National Trusts, with Grey’s Court being a new discovery this year. Bekonscot Model Village was established as a new favourite day out destination (turns out that children LOVE life in miniature), we are still big fans of Kew Gardens for a good runaround; and we made it up to the National Space Centre in Leicester which is amazing but very full-on – don’t even attempt to get round it all in one day……you get a return ticket included in the price so plan another visit instead.

My year

This year I have done a lot of staying in. I have been attempting to learn Spanish using Duolingo which I love and would highly recommend. And I have made some major changes including cutting down hugely on meat – I wouldn’t say I have quite gone veggie, but I have gone ‘flexi‘ and only eat meat very occasionally these days.

My book group continues to be one of the highlights of my life – not just for the books but also because it is hard to beat spending regular time with a group of friends you feel completely at ease with. Onto books though, one of the stand-out books of my reading year was To Obama: With Love, Joy, Hate and Despair – such an inspiring read all about the ten letters a day which Obama read while he was in office. I’d just recommend that you read the actual book rather than the Kindle version, on which the letters are…..well, really very difficult to read.  As well as Obama, I also loved Bookworm by Lucy Mangan, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (the recent TV adaptation is also amazing); and enjoyed re-reading The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time since my teens.

2019 is the year I’ll turn 40. 40!! I can’t really be doing with resolutions, but mainly I am hoping to spend more time on the things that make me happy and shed some of those things that have made this year a little overwhelming. All in all, I am looking forward to carrying a lighter load in 2019.

Cheers to that, and thank you for reading my blog and for all your lovely comments this year. Happy 2019! x

 

 

Just some December musings

Let me tell you about a few of my Christmas time memories from when I was little.

I remember our putting-up-the-Christmas-tree ritual – we would take it in turns, strictly one decoration at a time. They were all carefully wrapped in tissue paper……we used the same tissue paper year after year.

I remember having a picture-only advent calendar – we would always be so desperate to have a sneaky look to see what pictures we had coming up. This actually felt like a properly naughty thing to do.

I remember the magic of Christmas lights.

I remember Christmas being the only time of year that we would have proper whole nuts in the house. Nuts in their shells that required a nutcracker. I wasn’t even that keen on them, but they definitely meant it was Christmas time.

I remember running into our parents’ room on Christmas morning and clambering onto the bed to open our stockings. There would always be a tangerine at the bottom.

I remember having more people than proper seats around the table for Christmas dinner. Someone would always end up on the piano stool.

I remember our present-opening ritual, which was much like our decorating-the-tree ritual. One at a time, we would open, admire, take a photo, say thank you and then it was the next person’s turn.

These are just little snippets…..a few things that stand out from my childhood about this time of year. We now have little traditions of our own – some of them are the same as I had when I was little, and some are new. We still take it in turns to do our tree decorations; and I still buy my boys a non-chocolate advent calendar. We will settle down together one evening to watch a Christmas film, and we always find an afternoon to go into London to see the lights. I like to make a Christmas pudding, and a few jars of cranberry sauce. I always make far too much red cabbage which ends up in the freezer – no-one even really eats it apart from me….I have no idea why I make enough for twenty. On Christmas day, stockings are emptied on mummy and daddy’s bed, and there is always a tangerine at the bottom; apart from for the biggest boy because he doesn’t like them and Father Christmas knows that, obviously. So he gets an apple instead. Presents are admired before moving on to open the next one. Sometime after Christmas we go to a local pantomime, and new year is always catch up time with some very good friends.

These are our own little rituals and our boys are usually brimming over with excitement. But every year, there is pressure from every angle to keep adding more and more to an already busy time. To make it all bigger, shinier and more elaborate. Out of interest, I have just had a look at a few ‘Santa’s Grotto’ options and am astounded at how much it is now apparently reasonable to charge for what I’m sure used to be a fairly impromptu thing that you might do if you happened to be at the garden centre. I have found grottos charging over £30.00 (I really have), many others which are over £20.00; and garden centres charging between £10 and £15.

Retailers and so many others are so ready to exploit the fact that parents want to make Christmas a magical time for their little ones, by telling us that to make things magical we absolutely need all these extras; when what children really treasure are their own special little rituals and routines, however simple these might be. As I get older, I find myself increasingly determined to resist the pressure. Sometimes it just feels like there is too much stuff coming at us from everywhere so this year I am attempting to close my ears to the noise; and be happy and grateful for the little things that make our Christmas time special.

Happy December. Enjoy your little traditions, whatever they might be x

Christmas hugs

 

Addressing the things it feels easier to avoid

I hesitated a lot over whether to write this…..I’m still not sure whether I’ll press the ‘publish’ button. I hesitated, and am still hesitating, because it is something I’ve never written about before, or even really talked about before.

I hesitated because thinking about it makes me sad, and it tends to be easier to avoid those things. Or it seems easier at the time, anyway. But this year I’ve realised that sometimes you have to stop marching on through pretending everything is fine, and take the time to address things properly.

The thing is, my dad died this year.

The day it happened, I wrote it down again and again because I didn’t really know what else to do. I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel or what I was supposed to do next. Because the other thing is, I hadn’t seen my dad for over 20 years…..since I was about 15. So how are you meant to feel in that situation? How do you even tell people what has happened? People would have questions – where did he live? Was it sudden? Were we close? Had I seen him recently?  It was too big to know how to approach. It would need to be followed up by explanations, history; by things that I had rarely talked about.

And so I hardly told anyone…..I didn’t really talk about it at all. I went to work. I cooked the dinner. I watched my boys play football. I did the food shopping. I renewed library books. I went to meetings. I tried my very hardest to carry on with my day to day, because I had no idea what else to do.

I went to my dad’s memorial service and listened to people talk about a man I couldn’t even claim to know. When a lady asked me who I was, I was unable to find the words to answer….for a moment I had no idea.

That was three months ago, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I have talked about it once since then.

Interactions with friends and acquaintances tend to require us to be fine – there is little time for things to be otherwise. You can be tired, or not feeling 100%, or anything else brief that can be dealt with on the school run or at the coffee machine; but the rushed ‘How are you?‘ that we greet most people with does not allow for anything much more detailed than this. We ask people how they are, but that doesn’t mean that we actually have time to put an afternoon aside to hear all about it.

It’s not that we’re not interested, it’s just modern life.

And so that was how it was. I attempted to deal with this massive hole in my life by not dealing with it; which is what I had always done. I kept busy through my twenties, and hid behind my boys through my thirties. It is only now, as I’m about to enter my forties, that I am starting to realise that hiding behind activity and/or children doesn’t necessarily work. And that, ironically enough, by attempting to protect my children I have probably made things worse, because I can’t be the mum they need whilst continuing to pretend that everything is as it should be.

I had, at the age of 38, lost my dad; but what I had never taken the time to come to terms with was the fact that I hadn’t actually had my dad through any of my adult life.

I don’t have much to say about estrangement that hasn’t already been said in this excellent piece by Sali Hughes, much of which really resonated with me. But I will say that it is an incredibly difficult thing to talk about for so many reasons. There is the worry that people might judge you – estrangement can be such a hard thing for people to understand. And what about friends who have lost a parent? How could I tell friends who I knew were devastated to have lost their dad that yes, my dad was alive but that he was no longer part of my life?

And so it was one of those things that was easier to not mention. It would hit me every so often, like a giant wave…..normally when I saw a proud father of the bride at a wedding. But I rarely said anything. And not saying anything just became a habit.

Then came this year. There have been times over the last few months when I have only really felt half-present. Half-present on the school run, half-present in conversations with friends, half-present at tea time. The other half of me has been somewhere else, running through all the things that I have been busy not talking about for 23 years.

I hesitated over whether I should write this, and then I wondered why. I often find writing things down easier than talking things through – writing gives me time to consider what I want to say, and ensure it is all coherent without my emotions taking over. Here is where I tend to write some of the things that are spinning around my head, and these are the things that are spinning around my head; so why was I so unsure? I was hesitating because it is usually easier not to address the things that are messy and complicated……we don’t know how people will react or what they will think. But does the fact that something is complicated, messy and uncomfortable make it any less valid? Or mean that it should be dealt with silently?  Just because not everyone will be able to relate to your situation, does that mean you shouldn’t write about it or take the time to try and make sense of it?

I realised that no, it doesn’t. Or at least, it shouldn’t. And so, over the last few weeks, I have been attempting to address some of the things that I ignored for too long. Writing down snippets during lunch breaks and before going to bed….messy, disordered thoughts which were in my head but had never gone any further than that. Just by putting some of it down here I already feel like a huge weight has been lifted. My head no longer had the space to contain it all.

I have always been someone who is reassured by routine – there is a lot that is good about surrounding ourselves with people and activity. But if there isn’t time in the busy-ness to address those things, little or big, which are threatening to overwhelm us because they have been ignored for so long; then the one thing that becomes more important than anything else is making the time to do this.

That is where I am now…..looking up, realising that this isn’t something I need to pretend hasn’t happened; and attempting to find some proper time to address it. If this post encourages anyone else to do the same then that will be even better.

And now I’m pressing Publish.

Autumn wandering