Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Turning into my Mother

The  inevitable truth that I am slowly but surely turning into my Mother is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. 

I stare at my forty three year old face in the mirror taking in the lines and shadows illuminated by the harsh artificial light necessary on this dimly lit October morning.  Embarking on the process of applying rose coloured blusher to my cheeks and eyelids I am nonchalant in my use of the same brand and shade of blusher for many years now.   I am transported back to my eight year old self , watching intently as my mum - herself then at the age I am now - applied her make-up.  I recall how disappointed I was at the time to discover the limitations of her make-up supply and the knowledge that she had used the same brand and shade of blusher for the previous two decades.   Now I get it.

Further evidence in support of the 'I am turning into my mother' debate include:-
  • My apparent lack of sympathy when others have a cold/headache/feel 'off it'; "have you taken anything for it?"  I hear myself say before allowing even an ounce of understanding to seep out.
  • My need, as I move deeper into middle-age to try my hand at a wide and varied array of new hobbies.  These are largely craft focussed.  I remember my Mum going through a phase of making small rocking chairs from wooden clothes pegs.  I kid you not.  During one year in the late 1970's it was a challenge to find a surface in our home free from glued together pegs.  I see from today's Google search that this craft is now referred to as 'vintage folk art' but I don't mind sharing with you that at the time I thought she had lost her mind.  I wonder what my boys think of the soaking lengths of willow around the garden begging to be woven and the half finished macramé structures/Christmas decorations/paintings that are strewn throughout our house.
  • I have always fancied myself as a 'bit of a not bad writer' despite having nothing but my own possibly over inflated ego to go on.  And why either my Mum or I think we are potentially gifted poets who missed their true vocation is beyond me.
  • The fact that I am becoming a member of various community based committees at an alarming rate. 
  • I am now able to admit that I am, more often than not, 'right'.  And on the rare occasion when I am wrong, then you are probably wrong too.  And even though you may think you are right, then I will always know that you are not.  Except with my Mum.  Because we all know that she is ALWAYS right.
  • If you are a friend in need of help then me and my Mum are a relatively safe bet.  We don't suffer fools gladly though and once we've made our minds up there's no turning back.
  • I have inherited the ability to 'wait for no-one'...need to shift a wardrobe?  Do it yourself!  Ready to go out?  Stand on the doorstep with your coat on despairing as all other humans in the house look for their shoes....keys...phones....Have decided to do something?  GET ON WITH IT.
  • Stubborn as mules. The pair of us.
  • Panic sets in if either of us are less than a minimum of ten minutes early for an appointment.
  • A seemingly genetic passion for a denim skirt.
So there you have it. 

Thankfully, despite only very occasional evidence to the contrary, there are worse people to turn into. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  Sorry to rush off but I need to get my hands on some wooden pegs...

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Back to school

It’s been quite a week.  The Eleven Year Old and The Four Year Old have both started their new schools.  I for one was anxious, about ‘THE FIRST DAY’, but also quietly confident that they would be brave and find their way through the confusing onslaught to the senses and emotions that new experiences such as these bring.

It seems slightly surreal to me that I can remember my own experiences of starting both Primary and Secondary school so vividly and yet already I have children who are now going through this themselves.  Am I really that old.  Yes I am. 

I have been asked on many occasions what I will do with all this spare time that I will now surely have on my hands.  Well, first and foremost, I plan to give myself a little rest after the trauma of getting two boys equipped and ready for this week.  DO NOT underestimate how much effort and concentration – not to mention cash – is required to kit out two children to start new schools.

If I was fond of a particular type of shorthand, which I’m not, then I would most probably at this point, be saying OMG.

School trousers.  Three pairs each.  For the bigger boy black, smaller boy navy.  Only days before ‘THE FIRST DAY' I had two pairs of the WRONG COLOUR trousers for The Four Year Old and three pairs of the right coloured trousers in the WRONG SIZE for the Eleven Year Old.  Polo shirts with the school logo on and also sweatshirts with the school logo on. Obviously.  One for just about each day of the week – give or take a day or two - should cover it.  PE Kit.  Apparently at Secondary School it becomes necessary to do PE still wearing a polo shirt adorned with the school logo which will then be covered up by the logo-ed sweatshirt but in a different colour to the actual day-to-day uniform.  Of course.  At the age of four any old white t-shirt and black shorts will apparently do for PE as long as they are accompanied with the obligatory black pumps.  Which brings me on to the issue of shoes.


FIVE PAIRS between the two of them of new pigging shoes. And that’s not even counting the two pairs waiting to be shipped back to a well know brand of high quality sportswear retailer.  

More precisely, one pair of shoes, two pairs of trainers, a pair of pumps and a pair of astro turf trainers.  Let us not forget the ‘too small’ astro turf trainers and gym trainers ordered to fit the largest-feet-in-the-house-already feet of The Eleven Year Old which he outgrew whilst holidaying in the Lake District with his Dad.  Whose feet grow a whole size in three weeks?!

You would think the madness would have ended there.  But no.  Having purchased in the final hour the day before ‘THE FIRST DAY’ the required footwear for Eleven Year Old, The Husband and me then proceeded to colour in, with a combination of a biro and marker pen, the logos to ensure the said new and not cheap footwear complied with school uniform rules.  Have we lost our minds?  Possibly.

But you know what?  We would have done absolutely anything to help smooth the way for these two boys of ours to be feeling as confident as possible as they walked in to school that first day.  It’s just what you do isn’t it ? 

’Cos we’re the parents now…even if it does sometimes feel like we ourselves should be going back to school too.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Snippets of everyday conversation #22

The three year old is sat on the loo having a pre-nursery wee (apologies if that's a little too much information)....

The three year old: “Shall we fly to the moon Mummy?”

Me:  “Well I don’t see why not.  Would you like to go right now?”
The three year old:  “No, not now Mummy.  We’ll go on my birthday.  In July.  Moon moon moony-y moon moon".

Monday, 9 February 2015

Snippets of everday conversation #21

Picture the scene....we are staying at my in-laws house in 'Fancy London'.  Gathered around the dining table is The Husband, The Eleven Year Old, The Three Year Old, The Mother In-law, The Father In-law, The Sister In-law and me.

The Eleven Year Old:  "I'm thinking of putting the kettle on, would anyone like a tea?"

A moment of silence whilst we all take in this golden moment of deep joy.

The Husband:  "We have reached the pinnacle of parenting".

Friday, 30 January 2015

Here and now

During the past few weeks I have tried to ease my sadness through writing but have failed.  And then I sat down tonight and this piece practically wrote itself.  I apologise in advance for any self indulgence.

It is three months since my Dad died; from a heart attack that saw him living his life one minute and laid dead on the floor the next.

Shocking doesn’t even cover it.  Maybe we should have been more prepared for his eventual fate.  He had lived the last twenty three years, of his seventy eight years of life, with heart disease and a number of other health concerns that had niggled away at him without stealing his pleasure of living.  But we were not prepared.  He was here.  And now he is gone. 

I have no siblings.  I was my Dad’s only child.  His proud to be ‘Daddy’s girl’ who loved him.  Adored him.  Who aches from missing him.  I saw my Dad for the last time on the day of my forty third birthday.  He and my Mum looked after my youngest son whilst me, my Husband, my eldest son and two dear friends  went out to a fancy firework display.  Before we went out, there were birthday presents. And singing.  And laughter.  When we came home, my parents were keen to get home, mainly to avoid ‘being in the way’.  I kissed my Dad goodbye and hugged him.  I unwittingly said ‘thank you for everything”.

Two days later my Dad was dead.  The last time I saw his body, it was laid on an undertakers trolley in the front room of the house he had shared with my Mum for the past sixty years.  The house I was born in.  He was dead when I arrived at the house.  He was already gone, but nonetheless, I spoke to his empty body in the way that those who go on living tend to do.  I said “goodbye old man” – which was odd really as I had never called him ‘old man’ ever before.  I reminded him that I loved him and always had.  I thanked him for all that he had done for me and my sons.  I stroked the head of hair he had been proud to still have at his age.  I held his hand in a way that would have made us both a little uncomfortable when he was alive.  I was grateful for the patience of the undertakers who gave me all the time I needed.  I barely acknowledged the presence of the neighbour who stopped by.  I was aware of my Mum and my three year old son being in the kitchen with my Husband; giving me and my Dad’s body some space.   I realised my Dad was no longer there but I did what I felt I needed to do.

In the immediate weeks that followed, I was overwhelmed by the support of close friends and family.   And surprised by those who didn’t know what to say and so didn’t say anything at all.  There were moments of surrealism whilst making funeral arrangements.  I was beyond grateful for the support of the many who attended the funeral and the outpouring of admiration for my Dad and love and support for my Mum.  I felt exhausted by the relentless onslaught of ever-changing emotions.   I was amazed that the world continued to turn and that life went on, seemingly unaffected, around me. 

In the weeks since, I have continued to take my children to school and nursery. I have attended visits to potential new schools and have submitted school application forms.  I have cooked meals. I have washed clothes. I have made polite conversation with strangers.  I have been difficult to live with. I have been angry. I have been frustrated.  I have been anxious.   I have been upset.  My three year old asks me when I cry if I am happy.  Or am I “sad about Grandad”?   I sometimes question if I am depressed. There have been weeks of drinking wine every night and forgetting that it’s important to eat and sleep regularly.

I find myself once again pondering the true meaning of life in a way that I haven’t since the self-contemplating years of my youth.   I appreciate the preciousness of life itself in a new and more profound way.  I want to live a more meaningful and authentic life.  I want to seize the day!  Live in the moment!  Practise mindfulness!  Be thankful!  I want to make a difference. 

But I am afraid of dying. I am afraid of everyone I know dying. I feel my heart beating too vigorously when I lay awake in bed at night.  I have begun to eat more healthily.  I take more exercise.  I am trying – relatively unsuccessfully - to meditate.  I am seeking help from a homoeopath.  I despair that regardless of all this I feel more run-down than ever.  I am tired. I have no energy and little motivation.  I catch every virus going.  I am lonely. I am sad.  I am lost.  I am broken.

I worry about my Mum. I try to be a good daughter to the woman who is alone and who I have a natural tendency to clash with but whom I love dearly; the woman who is barely able to parent me and grandparent her grandsons due to her deep rooted sadness and distraction.  I am worried about the effect on my eleven year old son.  I am so sad that my three year old won’t remember the Grandad who doted on him and his brother.

We dragged ourselves through Christmas, the New Year, the coldest, darkest months of winter.  Occasionally we have played in the snow and pretended it’s not happening.

Never before have I felt more isolated.  I am adrift.  I question if I am overreacting.  I try to reach out in a way that I couldn’t initially.  I wonder why people avoid asking me how I am. I am ready to talk now; to be more open about the horror of it all.  But people don’t seem to know what to say to me when I attempt to be honest with them about how I am feeling and so they most often resort to avoidance.  I try to understand why people find it difficult.  And yet I observe myself expecting too much from everyone I know.  I worry that friendships will diminish, relationships will suffer.  I have a new found respect for anyone who continues to live positively after suffering the loss of someone close.

I continue to post positive images of family life on Facebook and Instagram.  I book holidays and look to the future.  I am eternally grateful to the small handful of people who ‘get it’ and who are open and honest and consistently there for me in a way that is helping me to get through this time.  I need more of this.  I question my future but increasingly I appreciate the here and now. 

Every day when I wake up I remember that my Dad is dead.  And above all else, I am thankful that he was my Dad.

Thank you for reading.


Friday, 21 November 2014

My Dad

Two weeks and five days ago my Dad died.  It happened suddenly.  His heart stopped.  He was at home. Sat in his favourite arm chair.  Watching TV with his youngest Grandson sat by his feet.  He had just been out to tend to his beloved garden, accompanied by my youngest son and by his wife, my Mum.  He was exactly where he wanted to be, after living a good life.   Two days ago, we celebrated his life at his funeral. We wore his favourite colour, green.  We thought of the good times. There were beautiful flowers and a casket of willow.  This is my tribute to him.

Bri Mitchell

21 October 1936 to 3 November 2014
 My Mum and Dad, aged Eighteen

My Dad, Bri Mitchell, was one of the kindest, caring, and most genuine men you could have had the pleasure to have known.  One of life’s good people.  As you will see from the photo of him and my Mum when they were just eighteen, and recently engaged, he was also a bit of a cool dude in his day too.
A down to earth, hardworking, practical and capable man, somone who was passionate and knowledgable about gardening and wildlife.  It wasn’t unusual for me when growing up to find myself sat in the back of his car alongside an injured animal we had happened upon by the roadside who needed a lift home to be nursed back to health before being released back in to the wild.  As a child, I loved nothing more than being by his side 'helping' in the garden.

At times, he was a man of few words, and yet you almost always knew what he was feeling through his expressions and actions.  Knowing, determined, patient, stubborn, with a deep sense of right and wrong.  Despite his aging body, he held on to an energetic soul to the end and retained a boyish charm, and a strong sense of fun.  

Bri was no-ones fool, he could spot a mean streak or someone trying to pull a fast one, a mile off.  If my Dad thought of you as a friend, then he would have done anything he could to help you out.  Above all else though, this loving and gentle man, valued time spent with his family.
Together with his partner in crime, my Mum, for over sixty years,  my Dad has shown me and my boys how to love and how to be loved.  He has taught us how to be happy through enjoying the simple things:- to be generous in giving our time to those we care about, to look after ourselves and each other, to see the funny side, to appreciate nature and the cycle of life,  and to put in what you want to get out.

I will miss this man every day. But more than anything, I feel so very lucky, and thankful, to have had him as my Dad, and for my son’s to have had him as their loving and fun-filled Grandad.; because we couldn't have hoped for better.

Bri Mitchell will live on through us, as we move forward with goodness in our hearts, a cheeky glint in our eyes, and a mischievous smile upon our faces.

Bri and his older brother Roy

A keen footballer, he proudly played for Chesterfield Boys Team

On a boys holiday to Blackpool

Aged 17, with his wife to be, my Mum, Joy
He was a fantastic Dad to me his only child

With me and my Mum at a family wedding

Wonderful Grandparents to my two boys
Bri always had time for his family

Passing on his knowledge and skills
My Dad, with goodness in his heart, a cheeky
glint in his eye, and a mischievous smile
upon his face.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014


Why is the sky blue?

 Why no Peppa?

Why J (The Ten Year Old) doing that Mummy?

 Why we going home?

 Why I need suncream?

 Why Daddy going there? 

Why moving my trike Mummy?

Why Mummy?

Why not Mummy?

 Mummy why?






 Yes.  It’s safe to say The Three Year Old has well and truly embraced the ‘why stage’!