Love builds cathedrals that hate can never tear down

Last Sunday I took Kate to the optician. It was one of those days where the sky burns blue, and wisps of cloud drift over every now and then just to keep things interesting. The boys went to the green to play football, and we went for an eye test.

As I watched Kate answer the opticians questions – can you read these letters, these tiny ones, are they clearer on red or green? – I suddenly caught myself and gave a little laugh. I was watching her and smiling at her earnest six year old eager-to-please face. I was so in love with how she was trying her hardest to understand what was being asked of her, and sometimes, very sweetly, getting it wrong.

And that’s why I laughed at myself; because I realised that there was nowhere else I’d rather be in the whole world than sitting in a dark room on a beautiful sunny day, watching my daughter talk, smile, and just be entirely herself at 6 years, 11 months, and 3 days.

I think that’s what being a parent does; it makes of us spinners of dust into purest gold. Children turn the most humdrum moments into something that you want to gather to your chest, and begin quilting into your memories immediately.

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The mothers and fathers and grandparents and sisters and brothers in Manchester have those moments too; stacks of them, armfuls of them, more than they can carry, but none that they’ll ever be willing to let go of.  Their hearts and lives are full up to the very brim with love, teasing, music, laughter, homework, chip shop chips on a Friday night, bickering at the kitchen table, tidy-your-room-or-you’re-not-going-anywhere, watching their children at the optician and being enchanted moments.

Those families had everything and they still have much to sustain them. You weren’t human enough to realise that there are very many things that you can’t take away, no matter what you do. You can’t erase the hundreds of mornings of watching the sunrise together, surrounded by emptied bottles of milk and soggy bibs. You can’t take away the thousands of times you read The Gruffalo and never got bored of doing the voices. You never understood that towering cathedrals are built on shared lives, that love is capable of building spirals that soar up into the air, far above the dirt, fear and jealousy that kept you tethered to earth.

You – you had nothing. Your heart was never full of love; you never learned that it’s those tiny moments that that make your heart grow fat and heavy with the delicious weight of the life that you’ve built up around you. Your heart was no more than a casing for the bitterness you dragged around with you, no more full of humanity than the balled-up tinfoil that my cat bats around the kitchen floor.  Any memories your family had of you are ruined, gone, erased – or stuffed down the back of the sofa where no-one has to look at you ever again.

 

 

 

Like The Proclaimers before me, here’s a letter to America

Hey, my lovely American friends,

In the last two years I’ve argued, fought, voted, cajoled, and blinked in rigid disbelief through two referenda that didn’t go my way. So I know how you feel today.

The day after the Scottish referendum, I cried. I drove along the streets of my hometown and they felt different – alien, uncomfortable, unsettled, and no longer mine. I looked at everyone I passed, as they looked at me, for shared signs that we were the disappointed, disbelieving 45%. I’ve never sat in a pub before which was completely silent, but that night we did, and it was awful.

The day after Brexit, I remember Dave and I standing in the street, smoking furiously, feeling like aliens in our own birthplace once again. What is this country we live in? Who the hell are we sharing it with? What must the rest of the world think of us now, this tiny nation being submerged by racism, fear and I’m-alright-Jack-ness?

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So I know how you feel. And I can tell you what to do. Just breathe through it. Do what’s right despite knowing that doing the wrong thing gets you far further in life (I’m looking at you Farage, Johnson, Trump, you poor downtrodden outside-the-establishment, banging on the windows of power, upper-class, privileged white males who want to win just because they can).

That’s shit advice, and I’m sorry, but here’s the thing: it’s not getting better any time soon.

Welcome to the club of embarrassment, shame, and knowing that the world is looking at you and seeing something that you never believed to be there, but is actually just next door, in your street, in your coffee shop, and in your office.

15 things that are more important to me than GBBO and Brangelina

 

  • That my boiler has broken and I had to wash my hair in ice-cold water today.
  • Syria. Syrians. Any and all issues pertaining to Syria and Syrians.
  • Getting the balance right between having my bedroom window open and turning my home into a spider frathouse. There’s a specific autumnal day where the shift takes place, and I’m staying vigilant.
  • My sock rolling down inside my boot.
  • That sociopathic hairdo getting the keys to the West Wing
  • The upside down dead frog in the school playground. Frankly, he looks as if he welcomed death.
  • Women carrying their handbags in the crook of their arm, as though ready to catch a Jack Russell if it happens to fall from the sky.
  • A study I read today that says reading books prolongs your life. I am now literally immortal.
  • Now that I’m immortal, I’m going to start smoking again with a vengeance. The RED Marlboro this time, too.
  • The time that Kate tried to say ‘pocket money’ and said ‘mucky ponnet’.
  • On Tuesday I quoted Shaun of the Dead in a meeting and literally nobody got it. I just. I mean. What? There is no excuse.
  • That in the news this week it was reported that a ‘highly intelligent Oxford student’ had been arrested for sexually assaulting a woman. I don’t care for details about HIM. His IQ is not the point.
  • That when I walk the kids to school I know almost everyone on the way. This gives me earth-mothery smugness, and I’m very happy that I know every last one of you.
  • That my daughter is worried that Britain no longer wants to be friends with other countries. She thinks that makes us baddies.
  • Toby Ziegler. I don’t care if he’s fictional. I’m all in, baby.

So, what’s your 15????

In the age of social media, what’s next for women?

I am a mother, and I am tired.

I’m not tired of getting up in the night because other people need to use the bathroom. I’m not tired of tying shoelaces, wiping faces and pairing hundreds of tiny socks, all while being interrogated by two small but relentless torturers. And I’m not even tired of the exhaustingly perennial clutter.

Well, I am, of course, tired of all of those things. But you know what I’m even more tired of?

Talking about it.

For decades, centuries, millennia, the stories of women have been routinely swept under the rug, shut out of mainstream media, consigned to the ‘no further interest’ file.

Appropriating space

But social media has somewhat shifted that; now women’s stories are everywhere. Women are sharing, collaborating, arguing, talking about what the Tories are doing to the most vulnerable in our society, how to Mumsnet the fuck out of a chicken, and counting dead women.

And I love that; I love that we’re appropriating space whereas once upon a time we had none. I love that we’re taking control of conversations, publicly, and not just in our living rooms. I love that the minutiae of women’s lives are suddenly of interest – from what it feels like to run a meeting on no sleep, to how it feels when someone grabs your arse in the street, to how annoying it is to be halfway through a blog when your three year old spills porridge all over the kitchen floor. Excuse me.

The motherhood blogerati

And yet, I also find myself getting a bit bored of the conversation. There are what feels like 77 billion blogs by mothers floating around out there, from the earnest to the honest. We talk amongst ourselves endlessly about motherhood; what it’s like to be a working mother, a stay at home mother, a mother of boys, of girls, of both, of kids with challenges, extraordinary talents and everything in between.

But now that women’s opinions and feelings and passions are out in the light, I find myself a little disappointed that what we’re talking about so much is…ourselves. Or, more accurately, ourselves as mothers. Perhaps this is just the ‘Caitlin Moran’ stage of working out what it is we want to talk about, to shout about, to discuss. According to Moran…

‘(Women have) had to spend years kind of patting ourselves like we’ve just recovered from an explosion and going, are we okay? And once we’ve established that we’re okay, then it’s like, well what do we want to do?’

Motherhood is wallpaper

In this ludicrous, but sadly quite typical example, the level of angst involved in mothering is in overdrive: http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/guest_posts/2589176-Guest-post-Were-making-our-children-unhappy.

And when you’re on the receiving end of great deluges of this type of over-analysed drivel, it becomes possible to think of mothers as a group of people struggling with a uniquely difficult and specific set of problems. And of course, some of us are.

However, given that over half of US women between 15 and 44 have had children, it’s actually, for most of us (dare I say it) a completely normal experience.  One that is, variously, hard, boring, tiring, stressful and wonderful. Often, motherhood is wallpaper; it’s the constant background, the spine that runs through life while lots of other things are going on.

And now, like Caitlin Moran asks, I want to know what’s next, for all of us?

I’ve got lots of things I want to do. One of them is being a good mother to my children. The other 47395 have nothing to do with my children. Maybe one day I’ll write about some of those other things.

 

 

 

Women’s magazines and the tyranny of eyelid-shaming

On a freezing cold December night, what I really wanted was a long hot bath, preferably with something good to read and maybe something to nibble while I was in there.

Having read all of my books at least five times, I went to the local shop for a magazine, something I do rarely – and when I started reading the titles of the articles, I remembered why.

Cosmo was the worst offender, with an article called something like ‘Ladies – how to tame a player’ which I won’t go into right now, as I can see from here that your heads have already exploded with rage and you don’t need further goading. There was also a delightful piece called ‘How passion turns sane girls psycho‘ but my fingers physically refuse to get into that one – there’s not enough time for the angry typing that would ensue if I went there.Read More »

Patience

I'mNotAWriterBut...

compassion

In 1986 I got a job with the Manpower Services Commission. I worked in the old orange Jobcentres with the bubbly writing and the psychedelic chairs. My job was to find other people a job. By the time i worked there people no longer HAD to visit the Jobcentres, they went because that was where jobs were advertised.Through the years I moved onto be the ex-offenders officer, the Disablement Resettlement Officer, the Ex-Regs officer, the overseas workers officer – all these posts were about giving specialist help to certain people to help them find jobs.

I then became a Restart Interviewer- late 80s – loads of people out of work and I did 60 interviews a week to get through them all. This also meant new rules and new targets – stricter benefits regime targets – SBR. For the first time we could stop someone’s benefits for not Actively Seeking…

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The weight of a lifetime of memories

Breaking the stillness that I’ve grown accustomed to, but wearied of, a door handle is suddenly turned. She is home!

But wait; the grasp on the handle is one I don’t recognise; it isn’t hers. Or rather, it reminds me of hers when she first arrived here: capable, with a hint of matriarch.

The door opens, and suddenly there are sounds, unheard for so long. Footsteps, slow and heavy, boxes being set down in echoing rooms, and the urgent blether of feet as wee boys race to bagsy bedrooms ahead of their brothers. A new family has arrived.

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A Necessary Evil…….

Life as a MeCP2 Mummy

Blog Number 2…..

This blog is about something that I HAVE to do. It is a huge aspect of my life  and I want people to understand what I do and why and I also want to encourage more people to help me in some way. So here goes….

I don’t want to fundraise.

I didn’t want my child to be born with profound and multiple disabilities.

I don’t like posting to ask for help, in fact, I actively DISLIKE it. I cringe at myself when I click on the “Post” button.

I worry (a lot) about annoying people or boring them senseless. I worry that people hide me or delete me from Facebook.

And I get hurt when I see someone has “unliked” Blake’s Facebook page.

I shouldn’t, but I do. I can be a bit sensitive at times (okay, most of the time!) and I get hurt easily.

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My boy turns 3.

Life as a MeCP2 Mummy

I have considered writing a blog before. Purely because sometimes i have too much to say to put on one Facebook post. However, I am not the best at writing and some of my friends who blog are extremely articulate and I am perfectly aware that my blogs will be nowhere near as well written. However, I can guarantee they will be honest and from my heart. I am not expecting everyone to agree with my thoughts, but they are mine and I cannot change that. I am not too sure what I hope to achieve from writing things down….maybe it will be like a journal for me, a means to vent my frustrations and share my hopes, dreams and joy, but most importantly I hope that I can at least help someone in a similar situation to realise they are not alone, they are not bad people for having…

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