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Oh… HELLO sunshine

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Friday, 10 April 2015
Oh... HELLO sunshine. We're very pleased to meet you but did have just a couple of quick questions: Are you here to stay? Or just flirting a little warmth and brightness in our direction. You see, your big, bold entrance needs a little planning. And, if you are in fact here to stay, our winter toes and hibernation legs (ditto working upwards) need to know.

But if you're going to be gone tomorrow, we can simply relax. Bundled up in lots of layers is the only way we really know how to dress. A hot sun only confuses British fashion and – let's face – sandals are a minefield to negotiate.

Picnics, BBQs and a freezer full of ice-cream need planning too. Are lunchtime soups already VERY last month? What about sunglasses, umbrellas and that extended scarf?

So while we're very happy to hear the birds chirping, to walk home in evening light and to feel the presence of a yellow ball of glow in the sky, it's just that we need to know if you're teasing. Are you part of some big joke?

Do let us know before there's a hosepipe ban.

The Ski Carrier

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Thursday, 02 April 2015
If you're not a skier, you'll just have to bear with me here. And, if you do ski and fail to see the tree I'm about to bark up, then perhaps just smile sweetly and move on. Because with ample mountain air and feet buckled firmly into those weighty boots, I've been doing a little thinking...

First let's start with the basics; there is no dispute that carrying skis is unavoidable for anyone who chooses to pursue this frosty sport. And, let's face it, these long, heavily laminated planks of wood are, at the very least, cumbersome to carry while trekking to and up any mountain.

The smallest of these foot accessories belong to the 4-year-old who can ski but, of course, can't bear the weight of her equipment. And so her father carries the burden, until she is deemed strong enough. Then follows only a few years of independent ski carrying before any unsuspecting boyfriends pick up the mantle in their bid to show manliness.

Predictably, the husband follows suit too, until... inevitably... two pairs becomes four. And with the increase in skis comes the juggle of carrying while sharing the burden. Because (and this is the crucial bit) ski-carrying means much more than the mere physical act – there is the burden, the responsibility and the unconditional support.

Of course, there will one day come a time where we can no longer carry any skis. And, at his point, the meaning is completely lost.

So, here we have it. My equivalent of The Giving Tree (if you haven't read it – please promise me to do so) is The Ski Carrier. Put simply, it's the stages of life with and without skis on our shoulders.

Life Journey

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Wednesday, 25 March 2015
The Angelina Jolie effect continued yesterday as the glamorous actress and peace ambassador released news that, in a risk reducing operation last week, she had had her ovaries removed. And in a BRCA1 gene mutation type of way, she and I are now on a par.

Now more than 4 years since I had my pre-emptive double mastectomy and a year less since my oophorectomy, I do finally feel that that part of my life is over. It's just something that happened in the past. Not because it was such a dreadful journey, but simply because that was me then and this is me now.

The whole point about a life journey is that we are constantly moving. A close friend recently lost her father. It was a hideous time and yet now, a few weeks on, she is moving closer towards a happier moment in her life.

Angelina and all those other risk adverse girls are brave but you too would do the same. We take what life throws at us and try to regain any control possible over our destinies. And – when we're not journeying through troubled waters – we slip back into the daily joys, trials and tribulations of 'normal life'.

Unfortunately though Jolie's operation did not remain the first item on today's news agenda. A plane carrying 150 people crashed in the French Alps. Sixteen of the dead include children from a German school exchange trip. And this is the very worst sort of journey imaginable.

Glossy Finger Wagging

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Thursday, 19 March 2015
There's been a fair bit of finger wagging at those glossy magazines this week. Women far and wide (no pun intended) seem to have an axe to grind and it involves those 'perfect mums' in those shiny pages profiling their 'perfect lives'.

Now, I do understand that sometimes those features can be eye-watering nauseating as well as self-esteem damaging. Honestly, I DO get it. But talk yourself off the edge, ladies, and realise that no-one's life is even half close to perfect. Those magazine editors (who are honestly lovely and normal) have pages to fill and, anyway, reading about a perfect mum is much more inspiriting than a lady-who-has-totally-lost-it.

One of those profiled happened to mention that her children do not play with plastic toys, watch TV nor dress in anything less than couture. We all know THAT'S never going to be the truth for us. The real women. But it is amusing that she tries to pretend and should therefore make you smirk not growl.

Peronally, I read these magazines for pure escapism and, actually, it would be a boring old world without them. There are plenty of horror stories in the Daily Mail and Woman's Own, but I count on those with thicker, sumptuous pages to allow me to fantasize.

So the bottom line is - don't get your knickers in a twist over someone else's gloss, it's often not as it seems.

Mother's Day Misery

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Thursday, 12 March 2015
How does Mother's Day make you feel? Self-congratulatory? A little smug? So happy and content you could burst?

On the contrary, it makes me feel somewhat melancholy and a trifle guilty. Actually really, truly guilty. And because it's such a curious contrast as to how the Smalls want me to feel, I had better try and explain myself.

Firstly, Mother's Day reminds me of how brilliant my mother is. Sometimes I wonder if she is just too daunting an act to follow. Motherhood (along with marriage) is the hardest job we've ever signed up for. It feels like a continual hike up a very steep mountain, with very few bit pit stops. I STILL ask my mother a million questions a week. And this makes me feel sad. What will I do when I can't consult my mother the oracle any longer? I'll be so lost...

This brings me to my second melancholy thought. More than 4 of my besties are already unable to ask their mother how to descale their iron, get rid of a child's hacking cough or take those small people off their hands for an hour of peace. And I feel so SO sad for them. I almost wish I could share my mother with them to make it fairer.

Before I cause mothers up and down the country to fling themselves on the floor in a pool of tears, I do have one more miserable thought. All those thank you messages and I love you cards bring out the great guilt. Am I a good enough mother really? Couldn't I be less short with them? Listen to their detailed stories with undivided attention?

I suppose the bottom line is that it's our day, Mums. They want (and need) to thank us. It's just that it's sometimes hard to stomach.

Benenden Revisited

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Monday, 09 March 2015
I never honestly thought I'd go back. Actually, I could think of a million reasons not to make the journey. Logistically and emotionally on one hand while feeling utterly detached and that it would be slightly pointless on the other. And I certainly was not looking for anything as dramatic as closure. How could I possibly benefit from this St Trinian's time-travel? All the time rationalising just how natural it is for us to move on and remember (most) fondly and, besides, that summer's day in 1990, I really did leave behind that part of me in Kent.

But encouragement to join the 25th anniversary of boarding school life was firing at me from all angles. Many suggested I might regret not going. Others implied I had nothing to lose. I wasn't really swayed by either but I was curious to know what it was that I feared facing. For those who haven't lived in a boarding house, it is hard to explain. I suppose, in reality, this hadn't been simply 'school'. It had been our home. And for seven years, these school friends had been a wonderful combination of flat mates, soul mates and partners-in-crime just as those girls in Madeline stories: in two straight lines we broke our bread and brushed our teeth and went to bed.

And so, last Friday, I jumped aboard the all-familiar school train from Charing Cross to Staplehurst, joined by those same London faces I would eagerly look out for as my parents waved me off. This time there was no bottle of Bacardi in a brown paper bag nor any excessive leaning out of those rattling carriage doors as a much more modern train sped into the deepest, remotest English countryside.

This time mischievous chit-chat was replaced by a 25 year life update as we hurtled though marriages, offspring and sadly ageing parents. Slightly nervous, but definitely giggly and girly, our incessant conversations filled the carriage as it had done all those years ago. And, before long, we were draining our first glass of white wine in the main school entrance hall, slightly stunned by the grandeur, formality and traditional setting of our childhood.

A lunch, which in no way resembled previous school dinners, followed. The tales across the tables flowed as easily as the wine. It was baffling to witness how, in a flash, we all tied together again. Those teenagers, with whom we had eaten so many meals, seemed hardly to have changed. And I relaxed realising that back in those wood-paneled rooms with wrought-iron windows, over looking acres and acres of Kent countryside, we had been transported back to our former selves.

As it happens, I wasn't alone in my indecision to attend. Most admitted to having dreaded the thought of the reunion. But we're so often reminded that school days are the best days of our lives. And I did, in fact, have a ball for 7 years straight. So what on earth was the issue? Was the idea of looking back on what we have/haven't achieved so daunting? Were we wondering how much we might/might not have changed? Or did we fear the school and our peers might not live up to our memories?

And how did it all end? Well, we laughed, we remembered, we reminised and we laughed some more but, despite all this, I shall probably never return again...

London Fashion WEAK

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Wednesday, 25 February 2015
It's a funny old week of fashion business, with catwalks spinning around the cities of the globe quicker than you can say Tom Ford or Victoria Beckham. Tottering over in heels, the droves of fashionistas land in our capital on a mission to show, tell and meet their favourite designer, brand or a la mode idol. Many hell bent on being snapped by those with a snappy photography habit before sipping a cocktail or two with equally passionate trend-followers.

In reality though, it's enough to make you feel weak, at more than the knees. Not enough hot meals to go round, endless walking/standing in stilts and often dressed in the least comfortable attire – in some vane (or maybe vain) attempt to be noticed.

And then there's the sweeping wave of FOMO too. Top of the shops is always going to be Top Shop closely followed by Burberry as the hottest ticket in (show) town. Elbowing in to get a first glimpse at those styles, faces, trends, images... what's in and what's out... who's in the frow?

Before long the city empties out and the colourful creatures fly on, while I'm left wondering if this frenzy of fashion is a moment of weakness or simply a week of passionate pester-power to fuel our next (fashion) purchase?

Oh Dear Myleene

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Friday, 20 February 2015
I'm feeling the urge to join in the Myleene madness. Small is celebrating 9 years this coming Monday and I'm being asked what he might be lacking. Of course, the honest answer is 'nothing at all'. My small boy is happy with all that he has and lacks absolutely nothing. But... he did manage to destroy our football goal in the garden so is saving up to replace it.

And so, as I suggest an Amazon voucher, I hit Myleene Klass territory. Having publically shamed a mother at her daughter's school for asking for Cash-for-Kindle, a debate has since raged over cash versus presents. For the over privileged child, I should add.

A whip around has never been a bad idea. On the other hand, shamefully outing a fellow mum has. Perhaps on the search for a little self-publicity, I think Myleene might have missed the crucial point. It certainly wasn't greed which sent the accused email but a brilliantly resourceful mother who was ensuring that her child didn't receive a spoilt pile of endless (slightly useless) gifts.

Isn't it curious how a millionaire can get the act of gifting so very wrong?

Homework Hater!

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Thursday, 05 February 2015
I (bloody) hate homework. Am I even allowed to say aloud something so anti-establishment, let alone type on a screen? Apologies if I've offended, but it's the bane of my afternoons and, quite frankly, absolutely shouldn't be. Sometimes I wonder what I would rather do – eat dirt? hand wash a jumper? or peel vegetables? And they ALL win – hands down. Because homework is evil and boring and not the way I want to spend the end of the day with my tired children.

Tonight's evilness was a perfect example. Our homework hour was spent doing a Science reading comprehension about sources of hydration, a French word search and some tricky Maths problems. A couple of doors were slammed and pencils thrown and, only once we'd all had a big bowl of spag bol, had the tension subsided.

I remember once, at those infamous school gates, hearing talk of that school which doesn't give their pupils any homework. Only lightly requested to read a book and relax once home from school, this genius institution immediately shone the light in my eyes. How very innovative, utterly forward thinking, I thought to myself.

Of course, real people in the real world do work after office hours but these underage minors have all that to look forward to and should really be allowed to play a game, discuss the trials and tribulations of their day and read 'that book'.

Oh well... maybe... one day. Until then, we'd better run through those ludicrous spelling words.

Busy, are you?

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Busy, busy oh so busy.  Quite literally the buzz word of today.  Even out trumping ‘stressed’ and ‘exhausted’, I feel like I can’t cross the road without someone telling me just how extraordinarily SWAMPED they are.  

How are you? I ask my neighbour.
MANIC! She screeches.

Fancy a coffee? I text a friend
Can’t.  Totally slammed. Is the answer.

But I’m as guilty as the next with my OHHH-SO-BUSY retorts.  And strangely it’s nothing really to do with just how much we have on our plates.  No, we’ve all officially joined the Busy-Team where the only answer is busy.  (A bit like the banana game but less funny.)

Of course competitive busy, as a sport, is now also on the rise.  Could you possibly pick up my kids from school reads a recent text.  I’m just SO busy! Now, how does the texter know that they are honestly busier than their recipient?  Who could possibly be the judge in this frantic, breathless rush?

Working mums, those with terribly tiny toddlers, small business owners, CEOs, others with no childcare, no PA, no helping hand… I wonder if we really are busier than our predecessors or whether we just complain a lot more?  Perhaps it’s simply our default setting and someone this Christmas needs to turn us off, unplug the busy lead, let us cool off and then power us up again?

Put up your hand if you’re going to join me as I duck out the Busy Cult.  Let’s face it; it’s dull, heightens stress levels and is definitely not an appropriate answer to any polite enquiry.  Let’s redefine the narrative and promise not to air our busy linen in public.

All power to the duvet day

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Tuesday, 18 November 2014
We’re all muttering the same thing.  Like a broken Mummy record.

“Such a long term this is!” “If only they weren’t so exhausted!” “these short dark days are getting to us” “… just got to keep going…”

Except that Mini and I decided to call a stop to it all today.  There she was dressed and ready to head out of the front door when I decided to take a closer look at her pale face, watery eyes and red, sore nose.  And there I saw the light: keeping the show on the road isn’t always the way forward.  Because sometimes the horse can simply refuse to jump.

Before I could say ‘pass me the Calpol’, she had run upstairs, whipped off her uniform and was lying on the sofa in a onesie.  And she has hardly moved since.  Only to write a few Christmas cards, sketch a little in her scrapbook and squeeze some prescribed juicy oranges.  

In my book, these days are called Duvet Days.  Staying at home and doing a little nothing, recharges those running-low batteries and  (hopefully) avoids any lurking sickness.  And it’s forced me to stay put too.  The two of us have caught up on her school stories (with no one to interrupt), sorted out the mess which was her bedroom and even done a little festive online shopping too.  So break the record and give someone you love a Duvet Day this week.

Parenting times tables

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Tuesday, 11 November 2014
The school gates are buzzing with news of the latest parenting course.  Most of those talking about last night’s session are feeling ‘empowered’, ‘relieved’ and ‘calmer, definitely calmer’ about how to deal with their rebellious offspring.  And, as I jumped back into my car to hide from those with sparklingly new superhuman parenting powers, I wondered why such a course would be MY world’s biggest nightmare?

Now, just to be clear… we’ve all waxed lyrical about hard parenthood is but saying NO and obedient bedtimes I honestly do feel I have now nailed.  I’m kind when I need to be and fierce in between…so, why do I need any further instructions to get these small people to function?

It’s not that I’m as arrogant as I sound nor that I think that I couldn’t learn how to raise my Smalls better. But I’m puzzled as to why we can’t simply learn on the job.

My own mother and grandmother certainly never took a course in child rearing.  And yet they were dab hands.  So is today’s society suggesting we need to excel at parenting, on top of the ever-increasing list of hoops to jump?  Isn’t it fine to just be OK at this skill? Or at least to work out a way which works best for us? Besides, what in god’s name is ‘real parenting’? Are some people actually getting away with faking it?

Set them free

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Thursday, 02 October 2014
I’ve spent the whole of this week fussing over a suitcase when I’m not even going anywhere fun. In fact, I’m not going anywhere at all. It’s Mini who’s running off into the sunset. My just-10-year-old is off for her first EVER residential school trip and the planning, labeling, instructions and finally the packing… is in itself full to the brim of emotional adrenalin.

On one hand, she is half dying to slip out of the house unaccompanied (no piano practice, homework etc) but, on the other hand, she is half dreading having to fend for herself with no mug-of-a-mum running up and down the stairs kissing her good night and tending to her every whim.

For me, this is all about a change. I’m dying to see the change this trip will bring about. Week on week, it’s hard to see our children grow up as they are right in front of our beady eyes. However, next week’s metamorphosis will be hidden from me until a beyond-exhausted slightly-smelly creature is delivered back to the ranch. And then, once she has caught up on sleep and baths, the change will be uncovered and my girl will be that little bit bigger with a sprinkling of social independence.

Of course I will miss the blonde bombshell - my sensible, conscientious, reasonably bossy child who has more sense (sometimes) than her own mother. But I do fully embrace her temporary departure as she steps into the outside world without her parents. It’s the only way for these kids to work out who they really are.

Insta-love NOT Insta-hate

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Wednesday, 09 April 2014
I know I’m meant to hate Instagram. All those #perfect lives documented in each #perfect square. But I just can’t. Instead I. Love. It. The social picture-sharing website makes me laugh and admire in equal measure as it rolls out varying degrees of smugness, clever captions and artistic prowess. I suppose, for me, it’s like delving behind the scenes on a glossy magazine shoot or jumping into a food photographer’s kitchen… really, honestly not quite as offensive as many are making out.

So I’m here today to defend my sepia-tinted friend to those insta-haters:

1. You say you hate selfies. Well, my response would be to look at the extending arm needed to snap and you’ll start to find them pretty amusing.
2. You say it gives you food envy. But does it inspire you to cook something? Or even give you a sneak preview of what your long-anticipated dinner at Chiltern Firehouse might look like?
3. You say perfect children are nauseating. I say it’s a moment in time, relax.
4. You say they over-share. But their constant need to update doesn’t need to be connected to your constant need to observe. Control your insta-urge!
5. You say it makes you GREEN-EYED. Don’t be ridiculous. Their lives through 70s rose-tinted glasses, cropped to perfection and edited till bliss aren’t real.

My last piece of insta-advice is to choose carefully who you follow, enjoy the real artists out there and relish a pretty nosy insight into curiously documented lives. I certainly do.


You can read more musings from Emma at www.lifeofyablon.com.


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