Friday, 31 July 2015

Now what?

I sent my two oldest babies off to camp for eleven days. Yes, ten nights in tents with teenagers in charge. They will be fine. I'm not worried at all. They are having the best time ever. Ever. I'm sure of it. Even the seven year old. Especially the seven year old. They are just fine. I'm telling you. Because they are.

I also sent my youngest baby off to a sleepover at his grandparents' house. They may be able to take him until Monday, depending on if their friends want to go out for dinner or not with them on Sunday. If they do, we still have no children until Sunday afternoon.

I genuinely am not sure what to do now. I was so lost I put a wash on. The weekend will be great, I hope. The last time we had a night without children was almost a year ago. Normally we go away for the weekend when we sell the children off to the lowest bidder, but this time, in a heart-stopping, death-defying, universe-mocking experiment, we are staying at home. We'll see how that pans out. I have a vague plan which involves some drink, some ice cream, and finally watching The Hangover trilogy which I got for Christmas. I will tell you I'm a little nervous. I feel like I have to magically be my old pre-children self for two days, and I don't remember what she was like. I should probably go shave my legs or something, but instead after my mother picked up Charlie, I put on that wash and collapsed in front of an old episode of 'Sister Wives' with a punnet of blueberries and a cup of tea. My hair is doing its frizzy thing, and I'm feeling quite sleepy. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Random thoughts on my return

  • It's winter over here. Tights, vests, cardigans. I wore a nightie AND pajamas last night. It's all rather painful after a week of Spain. The ghost image of my bikini mocks me when I shower. I've just put the kettle on, but Babes isn't taking the hint, so I will have to make my own cup of tea and will be right back for another bullet point.
  • Ha! And of course he wanted a cup of tea as well. Figures. Which attitude made me decide to make both of us an infusion of fresh ginger. That will teach me resenting him for accepting a cup of tea freely offered, and for resenting him for not taking the hint, and for hinting in the first place. Seriously - I need to get a little more selfless and just ever so slightly more helpful to that man. So when I didn't want to cook tonight, I made tsatsiki from scratch, and Tom Collins cocktails to start. That man works hard, you know. And when I thought loading the dishwasher might kill me, I did it anyway and hardly complained. I'm convinced it's good for my soul. Even if it's not, it's probably good for our marriage.
  • The Spanish holiday was amazing. We did nothing apart from swim, eat, drink, walk a bit for two weeks. Saw my parents. Then we got back home, repacked, and went off to England for my sister-in-law's wedding. It was beautiful. Everyone cried. Everyone. 
  • My brother and his wife had a third baby just as we were leaving for England, so I only got to see him three days later. Gorgeousness.
  • We travelled to the UK on the Dieppe-Newhaven ferry because of all the terrible trouble at Calais. It's lucky we did, as we would not have made it to the wedding otherwise. The way back ended up taking us eighteen hours straight, instead of about six, as a consequence. We got home at four in the morning on Monday. We're still recovering. The high point was when poor seasick Charlie vomited all over himself on the boat.
  • Today was Babes' first day back after the holidays. I felt guilty for being quite chirpy about it. I do love to be in charge. To be the big and only boss. I was relieved to find out he'd quite enjoyed going back into work as well.
  • I read an interview with a Flemish actress who said something that struck my soul. She distrusts people who are too free with compliments, because compliments are also a way of shining a light on yourself. To show how wonderful you are yourself, bestowing kindness on your fellow humans. I felt a little sick when I read that. I'm a complimenter. I'm meditating on how true her statement is for me, and how much I should tone it down. I'm completely in two minds about it.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Let me count the ways I love Conchita

How much better is the world for having Conchita Wurst in it? Immeasurably. There isn't a shitty day that cannot brightened in some way by her 'Rise Like a Phoenix'. Here's her Eurovision winning star performance to brighten your own day:

I adore her to bits, for being her own bearded, long-haired, beautiful self. For  being on the side of love, and acceptance, and difference, and don't even think of judging me because I'm not exactly like you or like the way you imagine I should be.

When I was getting ready for another half hour on the treadmill this morning, I knew today would be excellent because when I put my running playlist on shuffle, she came up first. As usual, she made me feel instantly powerful, strong, and determined. 'Once I'm transformed, Once I'm reborn, You know I will rise like a phoenix', in her vulnerable yet unshakable voice.

Even when the moment, inevitably, came when I thought - again - that 'Rise like a phoenix' sounds remarkably like 'Rise like a penis', I again didn't feel this detracts from the value of the song at all - it always gives me a bit of a giggle. Also, unlike a lot of people who know me, my ability to find the dirty and the sexual in any given situation has never bothered me. I choose to see it as my strength, my special talent, my secret superpower.

Today the world is still, again, and forever, better for having Conchita Wurst in it.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Fun and games in Puerto Banús

Babes and I walked from Marbella to Puerto Banús and back today. The apartment is up a hill, and altogether I think we walked about six hours - downhill, along the sea, tapas, ice cream, along the sea, uphill - sunshine all the way. It was lovely. My parents looked after the children, took them swimming, fed them, made them rest.

I have some photos I took over in the town of Puerto Banús, for your edification and entertainment. Please click on the photos if they don't look right. I'm having some more mobile trouble. 

Here's a local gallery:

And here's a healthful shop:

This is a store, with the important warning 'Exchange, no commission.'

And finally, my favourite:

Eat in ánd take out.

I have to nurse my sore feet now.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

All is well with the world again

All is well with the world again. My father - also a runner - took me out yesterday to get me a new pair of running shoes. I spent 23 minutes on the treadmill this morning, in 30 degree heat, and I never would have thought it possible, but the large mirrors in the gym, combined with all your lovely advice, encouragement and love, cured me of the worst of my self-hatred. There's something about a little bit of reality that can seriously kill the demon monstrosities that live only in my imagination.

I think I just hurt my mother's feelings. She was walking behind me and came to peer over my shoulder at the screen, and I reacted instinctively, the way I always do when the children try to peek at what I'm typing, by switching off the screen. It's a privacy thing, and pretty automatic by now. She did not like that. I sometimes wonder if she reads this blog. I once mentioned the address in passing to my dad. I'm pretty sure they don't.

I wonder about you, my readers. Are you 'out' about your blog? I've told my husband, my lovely sister An, may she find Corona in her every lime, and a few of my friends. Not my other siblings, family, in-laws, other friends. It can get weird in conversation sometimes. It also makes it difficult to explain where I found some of my more geographically diverse Facebook friends. I don't write anything on here that I'm ashamed of or would want to hide, but that's several miles away from telling people who don't particularly like me where to find a comprehensive guide to all my weaknesses.

We're walking down into the town to an Indian restaurant tonight, just the five of us. My parents are away with friends at another restaurant. My mother doesn't particularly like curry, but we're all fired up about the prospect of peshwari naan, poppadums with mango chutney, Indian lager, and all the British style curries like korma and tikka massala. It's not all that authentic, but we do love love love it.

I'm rambling anyway today, so here's another bit for you: I sometimes read this website called (normally I would link but I'm next to the wall plug with my iPad and my bluetooth keyboard with my battery down at 6% - I'm just happy to be typing at all). He posted the other day about '6 Things to Know About How to Get Out of Funk Town'. It's old stuff in new words, but I liked it and found it helpful, so I thought I'd pass it on.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Skip the middle bit

Another day in the sun, another experiment. Now I'm writing on my phone. What could possibly go wrong? Other than spelling, grammar, or losing another post? It's not helping that the keyboard completely covers everything I'm writing. I'm flying blind.

The only thing I want to write about today is something that makes me worried you'll all end up hating me for, but hey this being my blog and all I will have to risk it. 

Here's a photo of the view from where I'm sitting to distract you from hating me.  Now go away while I write another bit and then come back to leave a comment. I'm not being bossy, just paranoid. 

So I'm completely obsessed with my weight. Which is ridiculous and not very PC and stupid, but the truth, so there it is. I lost quite a bit of it before heading out here and reached my target weight for better running. The running did go better and now I'm all happy and quite proud of myself for once, wearing shorts for the first time in seriously about twenty years - short ones as well - but I'm fretting about it and I can't let it go. I eat half the stuff I ate last year, drink about half, and in the pool when I'm playing ball games with the children I'm secretly treading water the whole time even where I could stand, to work off my breakfast. I even went as far as to ask my mother if they have scales in their apartment. (They do. I'm doing okay.) I brought all my running gear out as well but forgot my shoes. If ever there was a time to remember Freud and his 'Forgetting is wanting to forget', this is it. 

You can come back now. In other news, I'm reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and loving it. I'm doing a season of classics and this came after Anna Karenina. As it would do. I'm on the third instalment of the five part trilogy. It's wonderful holiday reading - clever and funny and full of British references. 

Right. Off to laze about some more now. Cheerio you all!

Oh I did try to get a photo of those lizards to see if they were gekkos. The quality is a bit low as it was on my iPhone, zoomed, and in very low light, but here's one of these cuties. 

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Snakes on a plain, and in Spain, off the plane, with no rain

I'm currently in sunny and Spanish Marbella, and messing with my head because, instead of writing this on my excruciatingly slow yet familiar laptop, I'm using my iPad and a bluetooth keyboard. I've already lost all I'd written once, which is annoying because this is eating into my reading, drinking, swimming, lazing time, people! But I miss you and love you all, so I cannot stay away for a full two weeks. I will persist. Unless I lose this post as well, and then I will just get another Corona and a slice of lime and let it go.

It's our third full day of the holidays, and I'm finally getting into the swing of things. My anxieties, which as usual peaked around the time of air travel, have abated enough for me to have slept through swimming time this morning with my first nap of the day (the reason I'm typing very quickly because I am expected in the swimming pool soonish - I can only get away with that once a day), and without thinking one of my children would surely drown. I call this progress.

We are staying with my parents, which is a good way to have a holiday, because we have a near-permanent flow of gorgeous fruits, cheeses, and drinks coming our way, and we're not even doing our own laundry. The children love it because the swimming pool is mere steps outside the front door, and I love it because there are several lizards living under the rafters of the terrace roof, and in the light fixtures, and we saw a dead snake on the street. I'm not even being sarcastic. I used to be terrified of reptiles, but now I love all not-too-dangerous and not-too-venomous ones. I could spend all night just watching the lizards (are they gekkos? I will try to get a photo sometime) run around after flies, upside-down on the ceiling. As proof, here's a photo of me three years ago, in a Scottish wildlife park, holding a huge snake with a happy smile on my face, which I have pixillated as if I'm a big celebrity, which I'm not, but if you decide to go with anonymity online, you may as well be consistent. The other pixillated people are Jack and his cousin. They are holding the rear parts of the snake. I considered pixillating the snake, but I'm assuming none of you know it personally.

I don't know how to make that photo smaller or put it in the middle of the page the way I normally would. We'll all just have to settle for consistency-lite today.

Right. I must go put sun cream on many children and swim with them now. Greetings to you all! I will try to catch another thought as it flits by sometime and communicate it here.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Feel this

For Jack's birthday, we took the children out for lunch and then to see Inside Out in 3D yesterday. Before the movie, I was quite tense - almost itching for a fight, keeping it together because I didn't want to ruin the birthday celebrations, but secretly wondering if I could get away with ordering the prominently advertised mojito (I didn't). Then we went into the cinema, waiting for ages (we were pathetically early), trying to breathe through Marie splashing her entire drink-plus-ice over the carpeted floor, dealing with the family arriving loudly to sit behind us with an assortment of crinkly bags and crunchy crisps.

The movie started, and within minutes I was choked up with tears. It is so beautiful, so human, so understanding and loving. I wouldn't recommend going to see it with a four year old, the way we did. He found it very sad. It was sad, but in such a beautiful way, and in true child movie style they stopped the story at a happy moment. I wouldn't even recommend taking a stressed and naturally silent man. My version of that found it 'so depressing'. I would recommend it for women, men who like to mess with their own heads, and boys and girls from about seven to twenty. How's that for a shameless generalisation? I don't want to say too much about the movie in case you go to see it, other than I cried several times (I'm not such a crier normally), I laughed hard several times, and I came out feeling like my emotions had been cleansed, opened up, and sanctioned by going to see this film.

When we got back home, I went to lie down for a while (I hadn't slept the night before), and got completely engrossed in a book I'd heard about on Saturday on my Women's Hour podcast, The Wild Oats Project by Robin Rinaldi. It's a memoir by a woman who tried to have an open marriage for a year. I heard her on Woman's Hour, talking intelligently and frankly, followed by reactions from listeners, some of them very disapproving and judgemental, basically calling her a slut. Other reactions were much more positive, appreciating her honesty and her willingness to talk about things most people won't even acknowledge. I got curious and downloaded her book Saturday night, then read it yesterday and finished it this morning. I would recommend it if you're happy to read some very graphic sex. What resonated with me was not so much the explicit stuff (although I never mind that and definitely consider it a bonus), but the beauty of a woman daring to explore her own inner workings, the limits of love, and the nature of her friendships with other women. A woman showing her most vulnerable side, her mistakes, her lessons learned. It makes me hopeful that even when I have trouble finding more than a couple of people locally willing to discuss anything more profound than their favourite lasagna recipe, that the other kind of person exists out there, even if they live at the other end of the world. It's what I look for in people, in friends, in blogs, in my life. It's what I find a lot in blogs, sometimes in friends, occasionally in books, and not quite enough in my life.

The combination of that gorgeous film and then that book opened up my emotions in a not scary way. It felt beautiful, safe, like being a teenager again, but in the good way. In the way I used to lie on my bed and draw, write, listen to music, dream of boys, being myself and purely myself. When I ventured back down for dinner, I was not even tempted by the glass of wine Babes offered me. It repulsed me a little. I didn't want my emotions flattened, chemically blotted out - I wanted to feel them.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Sweaty brainless post

If I ever move to Florida, I need to remember to take an air-conditioner with me. We've had hot weather for a few days, and my brains are fried. I can't think, nevermind write. Our houses are not made for this temperature. It's 30 degrees in the living room and the bedrooms, probably hotter even in the children's rooms under the roof. My ankles and feet feel swollen - I don't know if they actually are, but I won't even consider running until the temperature goes below 20 in the morning.

I will be back when we've had that thunderstorm they've been promising for days and my brain starts functioning again.