Thursday 20 January 2022


This pile of soggy swimwear and towels represents progress. So much progress. 

Crippling anxiety stopped me from doing swimming lessons with A when I was pregnant with O. And once I had both of them, I couldn't get my head around the logistics. By the time I'd mustered up enough courage to book them lessons the pandemic hit. 

Today was O's first lesson. The first time he'd been in a swimming pool. I wore my swimsuit underneath just in case I needed to jump in and help. But he was great - and he loved it. The swimming instructor asked if I wanted to hop in and have a quick swim at the same time. I hesitated for the briefest of moments before stripping off. A whole lane to myself. Such a lovely way to spend half an hour - as was the coffee and brownie afterwards. A is booked in for next week. 

And just like that, I get to swim twice a week without trying to squeeze in time for me around the edges and the kids finally get to learn how to swim. What a joy. Next time I'll remember my hairbrush, shampoo, deodorant and moisturiser...

Sunday 16 January 2022

My resolution this year - me

Whether it's becoming a mother, a midult, the pandemic or just general overwhelm, I have, over the last decade, lost me. The years focused on trying to become a family and the subsequent rollercoaster that is motherhood. Pushed out of the role I loved, one I'd worked tirelessly for by a new boss who tried to use my second pregnancy as an excuse and when thwarted put up as many blockers as she could on my return. I had no fight left, quietly I acquiesced and moved sideways into a secondment I'd hustled. My self-esteem had plummeted. I now look back and wonder how I ever did that role, why anyone ever thought I was worthy of that position. Imposter syndrome has settled in like a comfort blanket. 

Put simply - I've lost my identity. And it's time to do something about it if I want my children to be proud of me.

1. Dry January - far tougher than I thought it was going to be but a much needed circuit-breaker to the daily wine o'clock. 14 days and counting. 

2. Daily planning and goal setting - I've always tried to leave planning and goals to the world of work, but if I want any progress to be made on the house and on myself then embracing it at home is the only way forward. We'll just ignore the week lost to Covid...

3. Getting creative - I miss being creative. I miss the art direction of my old role, the copy writing, the autonomy. Rather than brood, I need to make time for it at home. Writing on here is a start. Picking up a pen and writing real letters another. I've the bones of a children's book that I want to do. Sketching. Researching. I'm attempting my first quilt this month.   

4. Movement - I don't move. Have barely done so since the pandemic started. For me, working part-time makes it harder to justify time away from the desk. That said, once a week I do get a joyous hour to myself in the daylight hours when A is at gymnastics, 60 glorious minutes to walk along the Thames towpath. And I have a brand new Bamford yoga mat from Mr M which is calling out to be used. I just need to make the time - and manage diaries with Mr M.

5. Self - after years of following Anna Mathur and listening to her podcasts, I bought her book Know Your Worth last Autumn. Naturally, like all of my non-fiction books, it's sat on the side table looking pretty. So, last night I finally bought and downloaded her 3 courses - The Week on Worth, Reframing Anxiety and People Pleasing. I'm started The Week on Worth and am finding it so insightful and, most importantly, helpful. 

These are just a few of the things I'm quietly making time for. To become stronger. To feel like me again. 

Monday 10 January 2022

Reading my way into 2022

I love getting new books at Christmas. A pile of shiny new reads to devour at the start of the year. New or second hand, I really don't mind. And I love to pass them on once I've read them - I pop them outside our house in the summer for passers-by to help themselves or press them into hands of friends. Sometimes I offer them up on Instagram. Do you share your reads? I remember Liz from Love Those Cupcakes sending me The Essex Serpent way back when O was small and I was so sleep deprived I could barely remember my name - it was just the loveliest thing to do. 

I grew up surrounded by books - my parents are both avid readers with shelves of old tomes, my grandparents were devoted to the mobile library that would make its way along the country lanes to get to them, I voraciously read everything in the school library and then there was, is, my Aunt's bookshop, Way Bookshop - a tiny shop filled to the rafters with books of every kind, the jangle of the shop bell when the door opens, the creak of the floorboards, the familiar smell of well turned pages, baskets filled with rowing prints and a long wooden table - perfect for pouring over a large book of art or a map. When I was little, she used to take the cat in with her - and there was a delightful stool in the shape of a tortoise that I used to sit on. My grandmother used to shop sit and would sneak books home constantly. I haven't been there for years - more fool me. Do pop in if you're ever passing, you won't regret it. 

Because of this, my children are surrounded by books - there are piles everywhere - and I can only hope that they too will discover the joy of getting lost in a book as much as I do. That they'll sneak a torch under the duvet to finish reading the Famous Five or Swallows and Amazons. A is now 5 1/2 and starting to get the hang of it, although is easily frustrated and quick to guess the word incorrectly. O is now 4 and much to the annoyance of his sister has already nailed phonics and is keen as a runner bean to start reading. He corrected her pronunciation of 'China' the other day which made her livid. 

Last year I surprisingly read 24 books. Since the beans were born, I've stopped trying to read to a target - just managing to read a couple of pages before I drop off at night is enough. I mix and match new with old charity finds and recommendations that have sat on the bookshelf for years.
  1. Rough Music - Patrick Gayle
  2. The Secret Supper Club - Dana Bate
  3. NW - Zadie Smith
  4. The Switch - Beth O'Leary
  5. The Midnight Library - Matt Haig 
  6. The Authenticity Project - Clare Pooley
  7. A Single Thread - Tracey Chevalier
  8. The Turning Point - Freya North
  9. The Secret Hours - Santa Montefiore
  10. The Hypnotist's Love Story - Liane Moriarty
  11. The Foundlings - Stacey Halls
  12. The Love Child - Rachel Hore
  13. The Kindness Project - Sam Binnie
  14. And The Mountains Echoed - Khaled Hosseini
  15. The Strawberry Thief - Joanne Harris
  16. Pure - Andrew Miller
  17. The Girl with The Loading Voice - Abi Daré
  18. Keeping Mum - James Gould-Bourn
  19. The Confession - Jessie Burton
  20. The Loving Spirit - Daphne du Maurier
  21. Motherland - Leah Franqui
  22. Love, Hope - Juliet Ann Conlin
  23. The Familiars - Stacey Hall
  24. The Saturday Morning Park Run - Jules Wake
If you're looking for a delightful book treat, a hug in a box as it were, I can highly recommend the Feel Good Book Club run by The Samaritans. A Christmas present from my in-laws that has been generously extended as my Christmas present this year. A box of joy each month - an easy read book (highlighted in purple above) with a little treat or two - with 100% going directly to the charity. I've also enjoyed the subscription from Persephone over the years - now based in Bath, I love their ethos, although truth be told I find the books almost too beautiful to read. My TBR pile is somewhat mountainous! 

What's on your TBR pile? I've already read The Cat Who Saved Books and Hamnet so far this year. 

Sunday 3 January 2021

Righty-ho 2021, here's the plan

We're going to put one foot in front of the other and take each day as it comes. 

This time last year we had no idea that people ate bats or that there was a place called Wuhan. By February, there were warning signs but they were at arms length. Hop, skip and a jump into March and, as they say, the rest is history. Mr M and I went down with the virus in the run up to lockdown, swiftly followed by the 3 yr old that first weekend, then the 2 yr old. Three weeks of self isolation later, the support of an amazing NHS volunteer, incredible friends picking up precious food supplies, a crash course in using a nebuliser with minors (reward stickers helped enormously), the comedy of juggling childcare and work, topped off with Mr M losing his taste and smell. It was a peachy year. 

We were lucky - we didn't lose anyone. No hospital trips were required. We weren't furloughed. But our lives changed inexplicably that weekend in March. The fear of death, the fear of not knowing, the fear of failure, the fear of letting people down, the fear of not measuring up. Memories were not made. We didn't have time to learn a new hobby or bake banana bread or get fit or Marie Kondo the house. Holidays were cancelled. There were far too many deliveries from Laithwaites than was healthy. We have barely moved for 10 months - we still haven't worked out when you're meant to squeeze that in between kids, work, eating, sleeping and repeat. 

Lockdown without childcare support broke us. 

But it also made us - as a couple, we talk properly now - there's no time or space to avoid it. We both experienced awful low points and needed the other's support. We divided and conquered when it came to childcare - there was frustration, shouting, good intentions, an over reliance on Disney + and The Enchanted Nanny (an absolute lifesaver). A started school and, astonishingly, her school remained open during the Autumn term unlike others locally hit with the fall out of summer trips. O moved up to preschool and suddenly became a proper little boy. Birthdays and Christmas were celebrated with FaceTime, cake and fizz.

And so we ended the year; grateful but tired, hopeful that schools would remain open, an altered diet adapted to support Mr M's taste and smell damage - Jamie Oliver's meatloaf in lieu of turkey or a capon turned out to be an absolute game changer on Christmas Day, an ability to survive on a weekly shop, thankful for a bread maker and just a little adrift. 

It will take time to adjust, to process, to move on. For now - one foot in front of the other. 

Friday 25 October 2019

Autumn with a capital 'A'

And absent which is what I've mostly been from this blog, and life if I'm entirely honest. Life has been all consuming - not busy being social, but busy with the mundane, and somewhat weighed down with the lack of progress on the house. Small wins are made when the beans nap but work has gobbled those precious hours recently - not that I'm complaining - the new job is brilliant and challenging, but also exhausting. Coupled with Mr M travelling rather a lot recently, I've been in survival mode.

But with Autumn comes change - the leaves are turning, days are shorter and it's decidedly dank. Some days have a chilly breeze which snaps at my ankles as I wait for my train and others, like today, are oddly warm with drizzle making it ideal for some weeding as the beans nap. The log burner has had its first fire laid and we've made plans for beef casserole and stuffed squash this weekend. A time for hunkering down, gathering ourselves and catching our breath.

Monday 15 April 2019

Adventuring - week 12

The mere whiff of an adventure has Miss A throwing on her coat, finding her shoes and spotting the Gruffalo behind the nearest bush. A couple of weeks ago, we went on our first @surreymama_meetups at Wisley. Of the three of us, I was the most nervous, A just wanted to get going and O was non-plussed in his pushchair armed with his Lego.

If I'm honest, the fear of the unknown kicked in the night before and it was Mr M who gently nudged me into going. I rarely venture out with the two of them on my own - I found it so hard to do when O was little, and now we have a nap routine, I've got the perfect excuse to not push myself out of my comfort zone. The stress levels are always sky high. Ridiculous when you see everybody else managing.

Anyway - we made it. We met up with four lovely mums and their little ones. A, after a little bit of encouragement, merrily gallivanted about with the other toddlers and O happily sat in his pushchair. I realised that a) meeting new people is fun (if you like embroidery, take a look at Sophie's website and if you're looking for party downloads, take a look at Little Party Hacks) b) Wisley is just down the road and our membership is woefully underused and c) fresh air and space is the perfect combination for an afternoon nap.

We'll definitely be going along to another meet up soon.

Tuesday 26 March 2019

Tell me your story

How do you frame your stories? In conversation, I mean, not Instagram. Do you lead with the positive or has the negative become your narrative? Do you ever think about the other person and what effect your story has on them? Do they walk away lighter or burdened? What were you seeking in return for your tale? Empathy? Guidance? Confirmation? I ask only because I had the most insightful, impromptu coffee yesterday with a very wise neighbour who told me a tale, and then retold the tale with a different lens, and did the same again for the lives of two others. As she said, we've all had things happen in our lives, but it's how you choose to tell it to others that counts. And it made me pause. This is one of her tales.

Tale 1:
I had an awful childhood. My father died when I was 8 and I was sent to boarding school. No one told me that my mother had remarried until I was driven home to a strange flat in London because our large family home had been sold. My mother then separated from my stepfather and we had no money, so I had to give up school at 16 to work.

Tale 2:
I grew up in a large house with staff and ponies and had the loveliest childhood. Sadly my father died when I was 8, but I was lucky enough to be sent to a top notch boarding school. My mother remarried, he was a consultant, and we went to live in London, staying in 5* hotels all over the world. When I finished school, I became a model and lived in London. It was so much fun.

It's so easy to lead with the negative, to get that immediate hit of sympathy, but have you ever considered the long term effect? For you? For others? Does it subconsciously colour your daily outlook? Has the story changed incrementally, unintentionally, each time you tell it? Can you remember the original version? I'm guilty of hamming up the negative for a bit of drama, but I also know how draining it can be to listen to the same story time and again where the storyteller doesn't seem able to move on. Don't get me wrong. It's good to get things off our chest, a problem shared is most definitely a problem halved, and it's good to be a sympathetic listener. But how different might your story be with a rosier lens? Could reframing put a spring in your step?