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23 Jun

Have I ever done anything completely selfish?  Yes.  Yes I have, or at least, I’m planning to.

I am planning to drag my family all the way around the world.  Taking my children away from their grandparents, cousins and friends, for nine whole months.  Nine months is a really long time if you’re four.  Almost a quarter of your life.

They have no choice in the matter.  They do what they’re told.  Would they choose to do this if it was up to them?  I don’t know, but I think not.  Any enthusiasm they show is picked up from us.  They really have no idea what it involves.

All the youngest knows, is that he will be sleeping on a plane.  He asked me if his uncle would be picking us up from the airport.  Because the only flight he can remember is when we visited his cousins in Germany.  And his uncle picked us up from the airport.

We wouldn’t be doing this if I hadn’t had the idea.  Hadn’t gone on and on about it.  Hadn’t said that I would be really sad if we didn’t.  We wouldn’t be going if I didn’t want to.

It’s too late to change my mind.  The tickets weren’t cheap.  And we’ve told the world and its wife.  There’s no going back.  It’s a juggernaut that I can’t turn around.

I don’t know how I’ll feel if they don’t enjoy it.  If it isn’t a positive experience.  But I can hazard a guess.  Pretty horrible.

What have I got us into?  I hope it’s worth it.

This week, I chose the prompt “Write about a time you put yourself first” in the Sleep is for the Weak writing workshop.

Time travel

16 Jun

I’m at a crossroads.  The past is behind me, the future in front.  When I dreamt up the idea of going travelling, we were in the thick of the baby and toddler stage.  It was inconceivable that the plan could be put into action before we’d reached the promised land of beds not cots, pants not nappies, walking not buggies.  We would wait until our babies were no longer babies, then we’d go.  It has been something that’s consumed my dreams, kept me going through the long sleepless nights.

Almost three years down the line, the toddler is almost six and the one year old is about to be four.  He’s mostly dry at night, sleeps in a bed, walks or rides his bike everywhere.  He can talk in complex sentences, make jokes, spell his name and climb trees.  No one except his own mother would call him a baby.

For the last eight and a half years my life has been defined by my babies.  My days have been filled with nappy changing, breastfeeding, pushing swings, putting down for naps, Cbeebies.   As I lived the last eight and a half years it’s felt like they lasted an eternity, at times it seemed hard to believe that I’d ever come out the other side.  I wished my time away.  But as I stand at the crossroads, I realise they years have passed in the blink of an eye.  With each new baby, time sped ever faster, and now it’s gone.  I’ll never get it back.

I have much to look forward to, in a few short months we shall be embarking on a wonderful adventure, one that we wouldn’t be able to do if our babies were still babies.  And I can’t wait.  I can’t wait to see volcanos and glaciers, to lie on beaches and trek through jungles.  I can’t wait to enjoy spending  long day after long day with my husband and children.

But part of me wishes I could go back and start at the beginning.  To have my time again.  I don’t necessarily want to do things differently.  I would just like to stop and take notice, to pay attention.  To hold my babies once more.

This week I chose prompt three for the Sleep is for the Weak writing workshop, “What’s your magical power? Or what would you like it to be?”  I would like my magical power to be time travel.

3. What’s your magical power? Or what would you like it to be?


12 Jun

It was the fireplace that sold the house to me, before we’d even looked around. It’s a very lovely fireplace, original to the house, with eye-popping cobalt blue tiles. We have them in the kitchen and our bedroom too, with cream tiles, but I digress. What was I planning to write about? Oh yes, I’d like to tell you a little story…

I wake up at about 5pm after a much needed nap and as I move, I feel a small pop inside me, like a bubble bursting. I’m pretty sure I know what it is, but I decide to ignore it and go downstairs.

My two children are being given tea by the assistant at our local nursery school, who started helping me out a couple of days ago. At nine months pregnant, with a four year old and 22 month old, I’m finding it increasingly hard to get through the heat-wavey days. She’s supposed to leave once she’s got their tea ready but I ask if she’d mind staying on to help me get them to bed.

With two people, one of them an energetic 20 year old, it’s an easy job and by 7pm all is quiet. So I called the midwife. I’m pretty sure my waters have broken, I say. Any contractions? No, not yet. Well I’ll be over later, call me again if you need me.

Steve gets home. My waters have broken. Have you called your mother? There’s plenty of time for that. Remember last time? It took two days before I went into labour. Still, you should call your mother.

At 9pm the midwife comes. Still no contractions? No, just the odd twinge. But you do remember that I have fast labours don’t you? And I would like gas and air please. Yes, it says so on your notes, but it could be hours yet. Have a bath, relax. Call me again when you need me.

10pm contractions start. Not too bad, every five minutes. Must be very early stages of labour. Not nearly as bad as with middle child. That was every minute for two hours. One continuous wave of pain. Completely excruciating. I’ll call the midwife in a bit.

10.30. Speak to the midwife on the phone. I think I’m in labour now, I say between contractions. Well you sound like you’re doing just fine. Call me later when you want gas and air.

I want gas and air, I should have said. I’m a calm person, don’t make much of a fuss about things. I’m good in a crisis. I WANT GAS AND AIR. Why didn’t I say something? How soon can I call her back?

11pm. Steve, call the midwife, tell her I want gas and air. She’s on her way, has to go to the hospital first to pick up the canister.

This is my third baby. First one had to be sucked out with a ventouse. Second one, slithered out like a skinny, slippery eel after three pushes in three minutes. I’m pretty sure this one is on his way. I don’t want to panic Steve, so I won’t tell him. Steve, will you please call the midwife and tell her to hurry up.

It doesn’t occur to me that he would leave the room. That I’m making too much noise for him to make a phonecall. I’m not really thinking about him anyway. I’m just getting on with it. Only thinking about one thing.

I can hear him yelling, Oh my God I can see a head! The phone clatters to the floor as he leaps forward and catches the baby, who lets out a loud wail, right on cue.

Ten minutes later, the midwife arrives. She checks us over, tidies up, puts us to bed. Where I lie awake all night, unable to process the thousands of thoughts whizzing around my head like supercharged mosquitos. Thank God I never have to do that again. That’s me done, I am complete. Isn’t the human body amazing? Aren’t I amazing?

And the fireplace? Turns out the mantlepiece is just the right height to lean against when having a contraction.

PS If you look at the photos on the mantlepiece, the two in black and white frames are of Dickon and the midwife, about half an hour after his birth.


I’m entering this post in the Victoria Plumb #GreatBritishHome competition. If you’d like to take part in their quiz to find out your celebrity style, click here, I’m Joey Essex apparently…

A street corner in Bangkok

9 Jun

I’m standing at the intersection of four wide roads.  The heat is overwhelming.  An invisible boiling water soaked blanket, smothering the city.  I’m so hot that I feel as if I’m standing in a steaming shower, fully clothed.  Even the belt on my shorts is damp.  A dark stain creeping across the leather from the pool of sweat collected in the curve of my lower back.

High rise buildings fence in the surrounding streets, trapping the heat, noise and smells.  A gold and white temple, all curved lines and painted statuary is an exuberant juxtoposition against the the flat, straight, blank towers.

As I breathe in the clammy humidity, the first thing to hit my nostrils, making me gag, is the sweet stench of  rubbish rotting in the heat.  The nausea inducing smell of decay is cut with the heavy, perfumed fragrance of incense burning at a nearby shrine and the woody smoke of the food vendors’ charcoal burners.  Cooking food, exhaust fumes and cigarette smoke from the people hurrying past join the already heady mix.

The food vendors have set up stall along the length of the pavement.  They squat beside their buckets of fire, cooking a inventive array of snacks and meals, boiled eggs, baked bananas, pancakes, soups, stews, animal parts on sticks, sticky rice steamed in little banana leaf parcels.  Charcoal flames are fanned with one hand while pancakes are flipped with the other.   Customers get their food to go, or perch on tiny red plastic stools, slurping savoury, lemony, soup from large bowls, fiery ringlets of chili floating on the top.

On the opposite pavement, there are a row of fruit vendors.  The ready peeled, chopped and deseeded fruit is arranged in the vendors’ glass carts, like colourful gems in a jewellery shop display case.  Next to the fruit vendors are carts selling drinks.  Bottles of warm, lurid, sticky, fizzy liquid, their colours an artificial counterpoint to the fruit.  Drinks the colour of Smurfs, yellow day glo legwarmers and red London buses.  When you buy one, it is poured from the valuable bottle into a small plastic bag, which is swiftly converted into a drinking vessel with a knotted elastic band and a straw.  I would love the relief of adding ice to my drink, watching drops of condensation form, but I’ve seen it being dragged along the street by men with ropes like icebergs floating down a canal, picking up the detritus of the city along the way.

Life in Bangkok is never quiet.  A cacophany of beeping horns, revving motorbikes, the chirping song of caged birds, waiting to be bought and released for good luck, bouncy Thai pop music spilling out of shops, rhymic chanting and clanging bells from the temple.  And over it all, the soft lilting voices of the inhabitants, a thousand conversations in their melodical tonal language, sentences ending with a polite upbeat “krup” for men or a gentle falling “kaaa” for women.

I stand at the intersection, people rushing around me, bodies brushing past mine as they hurry on their way.  As I absorb the sounds, sights and smells, I know that this is why I travel.  To feel alive.

For this week’s Sleep is for the Weak writing workshop, I chose the prompt “Write about one moment with all of richest, imaginative sensory description you can muster.”

What does summer feel like?

27 May

I am lying on my back under the lilac tree.  The sun is hot on my face, pricking my skin, like a thousand tiny needles.  Heat is pouring into me like sand from a jug, weighing me down.  I can see the inside of my closed eyelids, thin, pink lines race across the bright orange glow.  Continue reading


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