Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Things I've Said...

Let me set the scene – it’s dinner time, my kitchen is a mess – every surface covered with pots, pans, bowls, crumbs, sauce and spillage (and this is just me conjuring up fish fingers, pasta and peas).
Since coming home from school an hour and a half ago the boys – H, 5 years old and C, 3 years old – have been wrestling, scrapping, shouting, crying, poking, prodding and telling on each other – lots of telling on each other. Finally, despite regular dashes to the living room/den/toilet/bedroom to referee the latest spat, dinner is ready. I shout through to tell them to wash their hands. And then shout through again. And then walk through and tell them. And then tell them again. When they’re sat at the table I ask what they want to drink and when they both reply with a demanding “water”, I add please on the end. As I always do.

And so, in Carrie Bradshaw style (but without the style, the wardrobe the sex or the city), I got to thinking about the things I find myself saying ALL THE BLOODY TIME since having children. And equally, the things I hardly ever say anymore. This is what I came up with:

1. NO
This is possibly the word I say most in my life and can be used in many contexts. Some that spring to mind –
·      No, you can’t have a sweetie before breakfast,
·      No, you can’t watch X-men, you’re 5 – what’s that, Dad’s let you watch it before?
·      No, you can’t get down from the table yet
·      No, you can’t have another ice lolly
·      No, your friend ______ can’t come round to play right now
·      No, you can’t have that Lego set/car/transformer

And of course, it’s also used a lot even when not directed at the children –
·      No, I can’t go to the pub/restaurant/party/festival/holiday
·      No, I don’t have anything smarter/without stains
·      No, I haven’t got round to the washing up/hovering/laundry/food shopping/cleaning up the cat sick
·      No, not tonight, I have a headache.

Generally, any form of reminding them to use their manners. This tends to be at the end of most sentences and becomes most enthusiastically done when other people are involved i.e. any present receiving experience. The embarrassed smile and nudge you have to give when your child rips open a present and says loudly and grumpily, “But I didn’t want this”, reminding them that what they should say is, “thank you very much, I love it” – even if it is a second hand Barbie with an arm missing.

I’m quite ashamed of how much of a role poo has taken in my life. I know the joke is that new mothers always discuss their newborn’s poo – which is totally true (“it was really green today – does that mean he’s ill?” “He had some runny poos and a sore bum, he must be teething”) – but no one tells you it carries on.
·      Have you got a poo?
·      Do you need a poo?
·      Who pooed in the bath?
·      Whose poo is on the wall?
·      No darling, I don’t want to come and look at your poo, I’m sure it’s fine.

Obviously, poo and fart are pretty much interchangeable. And of course, none of this even touches on the hilarity that all this generates. There’s nothing funnier than a clear-as-day, noisy, smelly fart. Apparently.


After having children, sleep takes on a mystical, elusive, golden-fleece like quality. There’s talking about their sleep –
·      He slept for 45 minutes, then was awake for an hour, then 45 minutes, then awake for 2 hours, then 45 minutes (I’m not even kidding – in his first few months, H only ever slept for about an hour in one go).
·      When will he sleep through the night?!
·      He slept through the night!
·      He has to have his sleep, then I can leave the house.
·      I need to make sure I’m back by 11 so he can have a sleep.

And then, more importantly, your own sleep. I was constantly tired and not sleeping well before I had children – now I am exhausted and broken and have given up on sleep.
·      I’m so tired. (I say this so much it could almost be my catch phrase)
·      I’m too tired to go out / make dinner / tidy up / have sex

Sleep inevitably takes on an Olympic-like competitive nature with your partner. The taking turns for lie-ins (i.e. staying in bed past 6.30am) seems like a good idea but it never works out fairly – he’ll get the one day they decide, miraculously, to sleep till nearly 8, when on you’re day they were up at 6. And then the night-time wake ups. If you get up with them in the night, does that make his lie-in null and void – or do you have to get up with them more than once, or between the hours of 12-4 for that to happen?  Over-used phrases go something like this -
·      Ugh. Is that a cry?
·      It’s your turn.
·      But I got up with them in the night.
·      It’s my lie-in.
·      Why are you tired? You had a lie-in.
·      I need a nap.
·      Sleeeeeeeeep.

This can’t be helped, obviously, but I wish there were a way of controlling it. We’ll go out on extremely rare, longed-for dates and often spend most of the evening talking about the boys – how sweet they are, funny things they’ve done, do you remember when…
This also seems to occur much more when aforementioned children are in bed, asleep – that is when they are usually at their sweetest and, as you sit on the sofa, drinking a glass of much-needed wine, relaxed and recovered from the torments of the day, they don’t actually seem all that bad.
Until they wake you up at 5.30 having shat the bed.

Things I Haven’t Said Enough Since Having Children.

This is a lot simpler.

1. YES (yes, I can go out, yes, I’ll buy that dress, yes, let’s go on holiday etc. etc.)

2. HAVE YOU HEARD THE NEW ALBUM BY / READ THE NEW BOOK BY / SEEN THE NEW FILM/PLAY…. Anything to do with culture – post-the-date-you-had-first-child.




Tuesday, 20 May 2014

We'll Always Have Paris

Another little bit of starter writing from the group. The title this time was "We'll always gave Paris". It's silly, but hopefully fun : )

"We'll always have Paris"
That's what he said,
Lighting a cigarette,
Sprawled on my bed.

Glistening with sweat,
His muscles like rock,
A thin trail of hair,
Leading down to his -

"You like what you see?
Are you up for some more?
One last time baby,
Hop in, shut the door"

My God, he's an arsehole,
An arrogant prick,
A vain motherfucker
Who thinks with his dick.

We'll always have Paris?!
I remember it well,
Him eyeing up women,
Gee, it was swell.

And the night he disappeared
With a woman called Pam,
Said he'd fancied a walk,
Went to Notre - Damn,

He's an arse,
He makes me see red,
Without thinking, I grab it,
And head to the bed.

His smirk disappears,
He soon starts to cower,
A firm blow to his head,
With my souvenir Eiffel Tower.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The Breakdown

This is a short story I wrote for the starter exercise in our writing group - the title of which was The Breakdown. I'd just like to stress that only some of this has actually happened to me - there is a lot of poetic license!! 

Dear Diary,

So, this is my first time writing. I read somewhere that keeping a journal can help you to vent so that all the nasty, negative feelings that usually twist up your insides can be let free a bit. I figured I need to try it as at the moment my insides are so twisted up with shitty thoughts and feelings that they’re rotting away like road kill. That’s a bit how I feel actually – like road kill.
We’re here on the Island – or, the Pile of Shite as Paul sometimes calls it (though, of course, not being a proper Islander, I’m not allowed to call it that). My friends are all up in London, living normal, fun, busy lives. Paul is up in London doing the same, except a bit more importantly. Where am I? Week in, week out? I’m here, with a body of water and two small boys between me and the real world. To be quite honest, I’m going a little bit mad. My whole world revolves around children, laundry and housework. That’s it. Those three things – all of which are fucking hard work and mostly extremely boring (less so the children, they’re more just hard work.)
Anyway, I’m hoping by keeping this diary I can retain, or rediscover some of me – the proper, inner me, the me before my life was ruled by nappies and washing cycles.

Dear Diary,
Shit day, again. From exactly 3 minutes after waking up, the boys were scrapping and fighting and wrestling and whinging and crying and winding each other up. It takes me so bloody long to get us out of the door in the morning because I can’t leave them alone for even 5 bloody minutes. I’m constantly having to run next door to sort out who’s taken whose toy or who pushed who or who….who the fuck cares! Deal with it. I’ve tried to leave them to it a bit longer, give them time to sort it out themselves, to learn to negotiate – or at least talk to each other like human beings, but it gets to the point where it does actually sound like one of them will soon need to be rushed to hospital. Lord of the Flies. So I bottle out. I end up walking back from the school run feeling completely battered and bruised before the day has even really started. And then, of course, I have to deal with the nuclear fallout of mess left by the morning’s efforts. The amount of dirty underpants and clothes, cars and books spewed around the house is quite amazing. And, of course, the Lego. The fucking, you-will-never-find-me-all-I-like-to-hide-and-pierce-the-inside-of-your-foot-with-every-step-you-take Lego.
The cat is as bad as the children, whining at me whenever she sees me. They’re always wanting something from me - all of them – food, water, love, attention. They all want a piece of me and there are no pieces left for me.
Paul texts in the afternoon. He’s meeting William Boyd for lunch at The Ivy. What am I up to, he asks? Seriously?! I don’t answer. I don’t want us to fall out.
The boys get home from school and the countdown to bedtime begins. If I can get them in bed by 6.30, I can be on the sofa with a glass of wine by 6.32.

Dear Diary,
Man alive, I have had a rubbish couple of weeks. Everyone has been bloody ill. Josh started off with a standard cold and temperature. On the Calpol every 4 hours, off school, too tired and out of sorts to deal with his brother in any way. World War three every 5 minutes. Ended up as a chest infection and he needed antibiotics. Just as he was getting better, Littlest came down with the chickenpox. The Goddam, mother-fucking Chickenpox! I noticed some spots on Friday morning, but it was Josh’s first day back and I couldn’t face the prospect of losing the one day to myself  - and at least 5 days after that - so I sent him in anyway. Isn’t that terrible? My first thought when they get ill is anxiety over losing me time. Sure enough, by the time I picked him up he was covered. And so it began. Raging temperature, up pretty much all through the night, sleeping next to me and feeling like a hot water bottle. We were both in this endless, hot, sleepless void of ill. Calamine lotion over all the covers, porridge oats in the bath, the whole house smelt of ill. And to top the whole sorry nightmare off, Paul came home ill on Friday night and promptly took himself off to bed for the whole weekend. He’d felt poorly on Wednesday but soldiered on into work and to dinner meetings with writers, kept himself going just long enough to get home and collapse. So there I am, looking after everyone, as usual. Everyone and the cat. The cat who yowls and whines and has started pissing places she shouldn’t and who always has shit nuggets hanging off her arse.
No help from anyone. No relief so I can grab a nap. When I think about how much sleep I’ve lost in my life due to these children it’s quite shocking. No wonder I look so fucking old.
I emerged the other side of that weekend feeling like I’d been in some kind of trenches. I still don’t feel quite right, maybe the sleep deprivation is still hanging on in there, maybe my anti-depressants need to be upped.
For this last week, I’ve been experimenting with having a small glass of wine before the boys’ bedtime – for medicinal purposes, to aid the process of bedtime, which is fucking painful. It seems to be working though, the whole thing is feeling slightly less horrific.

Dear Diary,
What a shit day, again, again, again! And this time I mean it quite extremely literally. Woke up this morning and stepped in one of the 3 piles of shit the cat had left for me. Then had to scrub the toilet where there was about half a turd smeared on the bowl that no one had been bothered to clean up. Finally, this evening in the bath, Archie decided to do a shit which I then, accordingly, had to fish out with my hands. Fishing shit out with my hands?! REALLY?! This is what has happened to me? I have a degree, I had a career – two actually, I was successful, I had a life. AND NOW I AM FISHING SHIT OUT OF THE BATH.

Dear Diary,
Deep breath.
I am feeling calm and relaxed and mildly happy for the first time in a very long time. It’s getting dark, I’ve lit the fire, and some candles, and am on to my second bottle of wine. I’ve gone for the nice stuff Paul keeps in the shed for special occasions. Me feeling happy, that’s a special occasion. The house is quiet except for the washing machine – I finally got round to doing a wash.
The boys are at school, I think. Except maybe I was supposed to pick them up. Maybe that was why my phone was ringing every 5 minutes before I turned it off. I’m sure someone will sort them out.
I’m relaxing and feeling like myself. I’ve even written a poem for the first time in ages. And done a painting. I can feel me coming back to me. I’ll just finish this bottle while the washing finishes its cycle and then the cat should finally be nice and clean. No more shit nuggets.