Wednesday, 9 July 2014


As you are probably aware, a few days ago le Tour de France was in the UK  Not just anywhere in the UK but, for at least some of the time, in Yorkshire. My 'bit' of Yorkshire to be precise.  Yes, the le Tour came to Sheffield!  And not only that, it came within a few hundred meters from our front door.

This was incredibly exciting - from our own personal perspective - for a number of reasons...
  1. It isn't often that a massive sporting event almost passes by your very own house - we even had 'official' tour bunting strung along our street!
  2. It was a real opportunity for the whole family to get involved in the fun, not least the making of decorations - we may have gone a little overboard...(see photos below!!)
  3. The local community embraced the chance to celebrate the event together. From the annual festival in the Park extending to run over two days in order to become a le Tour Spectator Hub, to the gathering of local residents to watch the screening of a vintage French film in the Park after closing hours on the evening before race day.
The atmosphere on the day was electric. I speak as someone who rarely buys into sports events beyond trying to 'join in' with The Husband and The Ten Year Old who are sport mad, I can honestly say that I was overcome with how exciting it was to witness both the build-up and the actual race. We had bucket loads of fun in the sunshine alongside friends and neighbours.

All in all, magnifique!

It was exactly what we needed.  A very welcome distraction to our current frustrations in packing to move house and the associated delays on completing sales and purchases, the seemingly endless conversations with solicitors and estate agents and the feeling of wanting to scream out loud on an almost hourly basis.  But that's another story for a different day.

In the meantime, I will leave you with these....

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Contrasts and surprises

I am surprised to find myself quoting The Archbishop of Canterbury who this morning described 2013 as ‘…a year of contrasts’.  Whilst as a general rule I do not hold dear the words of the Archbishop, this phrase describes perfectly how I feel about the past year.

There were some challenges….  a shaky start to the year with my Dad being seriously ill - he recovered, we moved on.  A family gathering during which a relatively small incident threatened the future of important relationships - we talked, we moved on.  A new job that in theory appeared  to be a ‘great fit ‘ for me brought the realisation that sometimes the things that 'should' ‘fit’ don’t always suit us as much as we may think they will.  Inconclusive medical investigations brought relief mixed with frustration, leaving behind unresolved health niggles.  The addressing of our work-life balance: a reduction in working commitments, later brought the reluctant acknowledgement that sometimes less stress can be accompanied by less fulfilment.  Feelings of sadness at the drifting of previously close friendships.

There were some real highs… a wonderful Springtime weekend away with good friends who became even better friends.  We sold a house and in turn felt a release from the related stress that had hounded us for too long.  A week in Southern Italy provided family adventures in much needed warm sunshine.  Two family holiday weeks in two different parts of Wales, previously unexplored by us, gave us lots of fun, laughter, and ice-cream!  A reunion with old friends reminded me of happy times gone by.  Listening to live music on a balmy cider-fuelled Summers evening.  Chatter and laughter with close friends over fine food and bubble-filled wine.  Completing the half-marathon ‘Memory Walk’ in aid of the Alzheimer's Society.  Seeking out new experiences and taking pleasure from the everyday.
In between the highs and lows…The Husband survived the second year of his return to Uni and has moved in to the final year of his Radiography Degree.  The Ten Year Old moved in to Year 5 of Primary school and remained generally unimpressed by the routine of the school day whilst getting increasing amounts of joy from his love of football and through joining a local Cricket team.  The Two Year Old found his voice and became increasingly loving and entertaining.  And me?  I struggled with low levels of energy and enthusiasm and felt a bit ‘lost’.  Overall, between the light and shade, the middle ground failed to inspire as much as it could have done and I strongly suspect I wasn’t always a lot of fun to be around.

I wonder what 2014 has in store for us?  I want to believe that I will grab hold of it and shake every last drop of experience it offers.  But for now, nursing the aftermath of the inevitable Christmas cold, I sit cradling a cup of tea, hibernating from the New Year’s Day wind and rain – reflective in thought and grateful for the warmth of the fire and for the company of my family who keep me smiling even when times feel tough.

In wishing you all a Happy New Year, I leave you with something lovely that a friend posted today on Facebook:
How will you surprise yourself this year?

Monday, 30 December 2013

Letter to The (now) Ten Year Old on his birthday

Dear J,
Today you are ten.  Ten years old.  It is clich├ęd of me to ask, but, how did the time pass by so quickly?
I am finding it hard to believe that you have already lived a complete decade of your life.  I am increasingly aware that it is likely that we have already enjoyed more years of living in the same house now than the number of years ahead of us of sharing a home.  I'm not at all sure that I like this idea!  I often wonder of what lies ahead of you, what adventures await?
I have loved seeing you grow from a beautiful baby to an inquisitive toddler and now to being the boy you have become as you continue to develop in confidence and personality.   You really are a wonderful person who is - almost always ;-) - lovely to be around.  So often, you impress me with your thoughtfulness and your generosity, your humour and sharp wit.
Sometimes you and I are too hard on ourselves, and occasionally we are too hard on each other.  There are of course times when you and I frustrate or annoy each other.  My endless questions about your school day.  Your lack of answers :-) My low levels of interest and ability in some of the things you love the most, namely football and Xbox. Your dislike of my 'encouragement' for you to do your homework.  But as each day passes we learn from each other and each do our best to appreciate our differences as well as enjoying our common ground.
As you move in to your second decade upon this fine earth, be safe in the knowledge that you are loved and supported more than you could ever fully know. I am looking forward with eager anticipation - albeit tinged slightly with a mothers apprehension - to seeing you become the man you are yet to be.
Happy birthday my gorgeous boy.

All my love always

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Worry and the school trip

This time last week I found myself in the 'sports megastore' that is Decathlon.

Completely ignoring the written instructions issued to me - by the activity centre that The Nine Year Old has now visited - to not spend money on new items,  I found myself spending a serious amount of cash on waterproof clothing and footwear, fleece lined stuff, a backpack and a pull-along suitcase.

The reason behind this particular incidence of consumer madness? A lame attempt to ease the worry of the residential school trip that was looming.  Because you see, the thing is this. Us parents.  WE WORRY.  A lot.  Some of us take this to extreme and worry about anything and everything.  I'd like to think that I'm not that extreme but I know that this is mainly me LYING to myself.   I try to play it cool but with little success.

By the time I left the Decathlon store I could happily have packaged The Nine Year Old off on a month long skiing trip in the Alps rather than a two day school trip to Lancashire.

On this occasion, the worries, to name but a few, went a little like this:
  • School trip = potential coach crash. Obviously.
  • Activity Centre = countless number of potential injuries beyond those of everyday life - unless of course you spend your everyday life canoeing, abseiling, traipsing, 15mph zip-wiring, swimming with piranhas.  I kid you not, this is just a taste of the ACTUAL real things The Nine Year old and 39 of his school mates did on this trip.
  • Potential illness - ranging from the common cold right through to fatal virus.
  • Having no friends - despite him having lots of friends going on the trip.
  • Getting no sleep - him or me. 
  • Not eating 'cos he doesn't like the food.
  • Freezing to death due to not wearing any of the clothes I bought and packed for him.
The thing that made me feel better about the whole thing - aside from knowing that he had the right clothes to keep him warm and dry - was that I know that my eldest son is surprisingly resilient for a - relatively sensitive - boy of nine and also both he, and I, are confident in his abilities.  This, and the fact that he was giddy as a kipper the night before to the point of singing at the top of his voice in the shower "I'm so excited and I just can't hide it.....".

The next morning saw a gaggle of parents chatting nervously to each other as we waited to wave off our kids. 

My parting words of wisdom to The Nine Year Old: " ...have lots of fun and please put your hood up if and when it rains".  To which he replied: "Ok.  I'll have lots of fun putting my hood up".

That's my boy.

There were a few tears.  But only from the parents once the coach had pulled away.

And now here we are, two days after he arrived back safely home with lots of stories to tell, feeling very proud of himself.  I will never know if the hood ever went up.  Or indeed if the coat was even worn.  I only know one thing for sure....he came home wearing his pyjama top.

Monday, 28 October 2013

100 word challenge for grown ups #111 - The truth of day


The sun streamed through the tiny gap that sat between the otherwise closed curtains. 

With the light of a new day resting upon her slightly parted eyelids, she could no longer deny the reality of the hours that stretched out before her.  What would the day bring with it? She was reticent about fully opening her eyes.  It was almost as if the daylight held a certain kind of power over her that she needed to resist.

The hours of the night before had been long and lonely.  Lonely in spite of the warmth of the body that still lay stretched out beside her. 
More 100 words - plus the additional four words from the prompt "...the sun streamed through" - over at Julia's Place

Sunday, 13 October 2013

All by myself

Being a parent is great.  Most of the time.  But like other great things, *go ahead, insert your own list of great things*, you can have too much of it.  I'm not talking about those occasions when a soak in a candle-lit scented bubble bath or half a gallon of gin will sort you out.  No, I mean the times when your head is about to explode because you have well and truly had a belly full of being in demand by EVERYONE ALL OF THE TIME!!

Usually, what l I need to get over such a gluttonous excess of parenting  is a few hours to myself. And I mean completely to myself.  Not going on a rare and lovely 'date' with The Husband.  or a fabulous catch-up with a good friend.  Just me. On my own.  A chance to clear my head.  To think about no-one else's needs and wants.  No compromising.  No effort to make conversation. No pressure to do anything that isn't exactly what I don't want to do.

So, imagine my delight, when The (very kind) In-Laws who have been staying with us for a few days, offered their services as 'resident babysitters'.  Having felt a little stifled by life of late, I snapped up the offer and almost ran from the house.   Actually, this isn't quite true.  I first did the 'decent thing' and gave them the option to opt out:  "are you sure you don't mind?"  Now, if I'm being completely honest, I probably only risked this question because I know that they far from mind, rather they relish the opportunity to enjoy the freedom of time with their grandchildren without the children's parents being around to 'interfere' and spoil the fun - my words, not theirs.

So, with the Nine Year old deposited at school for the day and The Two Year Old off adventuring with his 'Nanny and Grandad' I was a free woman.  A free woman with the day stretching out in front of her.  No responsibilities. No expectations.  No-one to answer to.  And no idea what to do with myself and feeling a bit lost!

I got a grip. Walked into town in the Autumn sunshine. And took myself off for a leisurely swim.  I love to swim and stayed in the pool for almost an hour.  An (almost) hour of actual swimming rather than being in the water and making sure that the little people you have taken with you are safe.   And then I went clothes shopping. Oh my, it felt good.  I ate lunch on my own.  Quite a fancy lunch which  I took my time in devouring as I sat and watched the world go by, luxuriating in the fact that I didn't need to swallow the food wholesale in order to get out of the restaurant before The Two Year Old ran out of patience.

By the time I returned home, I felt happy, relaxed and fully equipped to return to the bustling chaos of family life....with a smile on my face, a little less cash in my purse, and a lovey new outfit to wear on my next escape :)  And you know what?  I am loving and enjoying my little family all the more for it.

Friday, 11 October 2013

To be busy or not to be busy? THAT is the question.

Recently I was reading an article - apologies that I can't remember what or where it was and yes, I do realise how unhelpful that is - which suggested that we have a choice about being busy.  Busy-ness isn't a condition in which we simply find ourselves to be suffering from but rather we thrust it upon ourselves through the choices we make.  It went further, suggesting that we tend to 'wear' our busy-ness as a 'badge of honour'.

This really struck a cord with me.  Until fairly recently, I've often felt proud to consider myself to be a busy person.  A person with lots to do.  A person with so many responsibilities to juggle that I can be left struggling to fit everything in.  It was reassuring to think that with so much to do and so many people to please my life must surely be very full and meaningful and interesting.  Or was the reality more a case of me feeling that I wasn't giving enough time and attention to any of the things I was trying to do?  Could it be that some of the things I was doing were an attempt to make me feel good about myself, or to look good to others, to do what I felt I ought to do or wanted to be seen to be doing.  Surely I had outgrown this sort of behaviour by now?  And yet, I was questioning how much some of the things really mattered to me.

Just over a year ago I returned to working part-time in my 'day job' following a year of maternity leave.  During that period of maternity leave I had set up a business which I planned to run alongside my part-time job and the parenting of my two boys.  Other things were happening too. The Husband was, and is, studying for a Radiography Degree. We were trying to sell a house and 'do-up' our own house. Aiming to cultivate a large allotment plot. Wanted to continue to spend plenty of time with our family and friends.

I look back at that time now and think I must have been out of my mind for taking on so much but at the time I seemed to thrive on being so busy.  I felt proud of all I was achieving. Yes, I was sometimes stressed and a bit short-tempered but that appeared to be the price to pay for the busy-ness and fulfilment.   And then came the return of an ongoing health niggle. Nothing serious in the bigger scheme of things but enough to make me feel poorly increasingly often and to sap my energy and make it difficult to keep on top of all the things I wanted to be doing. 

On top of this I then moved in to a new role at work. And my Dad became ill.  I found myself feeling increasingly tired. Impatient  Worried. Angry with myself and at life in general. Me and The Husband argued more.  I snapped at the boys. I seemed to find myself in tears with increasing regularity. 

Something had to give.  I decided to scale back and simplify life.    I found it hard to reach this decision.  I felt as if I was 'giving in', admitting I wasn't capable.  All in all, without doing all of the things I'd been doing, the things that had been making me so busy,  I felt like a bit of a failure.

The last few months have seen a change in me though.  I've come to recognise that being busy doesn't define me, it simply makes me someone who's got too much to do. Someone who can't stop to think about what she really enjoys and wants to do with her life. 

There are, of course, responsibilities that can't be avoided.  We all need to look after ourselves and our families.  To earn money to live.  But we can make decisions about the ways in which we do all of this.  And all the extra things that we choose to do are just that, choices.

Having stripped away some of the 'extra's in my life.  I've reminded myself that there aren't that many things that are so important to me that I want to do them at a cost to the really important things. I don't need to be, and what's more, I don't want to be really busy all of the time.  I want to relax more and take the time to enjoy the things that matter most to me.  I hope to look back in old age and feel glad to have spent so much of my time doing the things I really enjoy with the people I really love.

It all sounds rather idealistic and lovely doesn't it?  And maybe it is.  You see, I've come to recognise that for me, there is a crucial flaw in this stopping of the busy-ness.  In stripping life back to the basics, I've had the time and space to recognise that the 'basics' do not always provide enough for me to feel completely fulfilled.  It's hard to admit this.  It feels as if I'm saying that the important things are not important enough.  This is not the case. Obviously.  I do feel a bit disappointed though, that my dream of a more simple life has come true but has left me feeling a bit...well...a bit...lacking...I suppose.

Perhaps this is a positive thing, to have recognised that all is not necessarily as I want it to be.  Maybe, being safe in the knowledge that the 'basics' of my life  are getting the time and attention from me that they deserve, I have allowed myself the luxury of having the space and time to reflect on life and to consider what I really want for myself.  Is this selfish?  Maybe.  But I'm going with it for now, so please do bear with me.

I'm not quite sure yet exactly what it is that I really do want for myself right now.  What it is that I need, beyond the health and happiness of those I love, to feel personally fulfilled and happy and satisfied in a way that I currently do not?  I haven't reached the answer yet.   I do however, recognise that whatever this elusive missing element in my life right now will have to fit in a way that will allow me to achieve a real sense of balance.

What about you?  Do you thrive on being busy?  Or do you long for more time to relax and reflect?  Have you got the balance right for you?