Tales from the tent…

Family

So it seems my worries earlier in the week were what they often are; time wasted.

Yesterday we returned from what really was a wonderful few days away. So wonderful in fact that I felt the need to share a few snaps and short stories with you…

Anyone familiar with our family set up will have undoubtedly have guessed by now that the responsibility of putting up the tent clearly fell to me. To those that aren’t, let’s just say that my partner likes to take on more of an advisory role.

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And after a journey that, thanks to the closure of a stretch of the M25, took twice as long as anticipated, we just about managed to get the tent up and the car unpacked before any rainfall. However, the heavens opened in time for the BBQ!

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We were wrapped up cosy and warm with plenty of blankets and I relaxed the usual bedtime routine to enjoy cuddles in bed as we fell asleep.

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And although the rain ensured breakfast was also in bed…

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…the weather was still warm enough for a few hours on the beach!

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But don’t worry, the wellies didn’t go to waste!

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What not to pack when camping in Britain

Family

Regular readers may care to remember a shot featured here at the start of the summer when my daughter and her father spent the night under canvas in the garden as a dry run for a proposed camping holiday. Well, today is the day we head off camping…and to call it a dry run was apparently a little too literal!

For those of you not familiar with the weather here, please acquaint yourself with the forecast for the next few days…

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And as much as I wish to remain positive, a little voice at the back of my mind can be heard screaming ‘What were you thinking?!’

Former images of memories in the making have been rapidly replaced with thoughts of wellies and waterproofs, frozen feet, and a tired two year old. And I am sure in a couple of years time I will look back on the next few days very fondly – maybe even fondly enough to do it all again – but, right now, as I write this from the comfort of my bed, the fear has set in.

My only camping credentials are as follows:

My bronze Duke of Edinburgh expedition (I never completed the rest of the award) when still at school. A weekend where my friend Jenny and I existed on a diet of custard and nutri-grain bars whilst wandering the British countryside, blissfully unaware of where we might be going.

Various summer festivals. Events where sleep and staying warm weren’t even on the agenda.

Try as I might, I feel neither of these are adequate preparation for three days in The New Forest with a toddler and a forty year old who has a fear of the dirt that accumulates on a kitchen cloth!

And as I think through the mountain of bags stacked ready and waiting by the front door, I wonder if I really have any clue what I am letting myself in for. Below is a list of items which, despite my best efforts to be practical, have still made the cut.

Flip flops I am telling myself for the shower experience but I fear I may still be clinging to a little too much hope!

Battery powered fairy lights I’m thinking ambient, homely, maybe a little bit of a Tim Walker vibe…

Batteries For when the first set die. Never to be found in the dark under a pile of poorly packed clothes.

Paperback books For a relaxing read. In the dark.

A selection of blankets, cushions and throws (white) There was a reason the sleeping bag was invented.

12 canisters of cooking gas Even if I hadn’t already scheduled my trips to the fish and chip shops of the area, I feel this is a little excessive for three days. Certainly too much for boiling water for three cups of tea.

Make up Even if I had packed a mirror, seriously, what’s the point? I just about managed to draw the line at hair straighteners.

A mobile phone charger Stranger still when you consider that I know for a fact their is no signal where we are going.

From this list I fear I can only conclude to be utterly clueless. And from that I am choosing to draw from this the only positive I can find:

I really have no idea just how bad it might be!

Fashion Favourites: The Perfect Parker

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So, when I became a parent I decided it was probably about time to grow up and consider practicalities when making my outfit choices. This resulted in some rather mixed results; sensible flats are something I still struggle with, I find myself all too often choosing between two pairs of nearly identical skinny jeans and I am yet to find the perfect colour to mask the multitude of messes a toddler might make on any given day.

However, this decision did lead me to make an excellent purchase; the perfect parker!

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Some questioned my choice of purchase at the start of the month of July but, fortunately(?), I soon developed mastitis and spent the summer shivering. Since then I have worn it almost every day of the last two years…bar those all too sparse days of British sunshine.

I cannot fault it. It is the quintessential khaki colour, has a huge fur trimmed hood, a detachable warm white lining and pockets large enough to contain a phone, purse, a muslin, gloves (mine and my daughters), a hat, a selection of small toys, keys and an all important bottle of diet coke. Impressive, I know.

And as I reacquainted myself with it of a rainy day I realised just how much I love it. The fur is starting to thin and the lining is not as white as it once was but I’m simply not sure I’m ready for a replacement…

Things I have never finished (and those I simply failed to do)

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I confess to being a little in love with Pintrest. However, only a little.

You see, I don’t really need it. My head has always been some kind of scrapbook; a collection of quotes, a montage of things to make-and-do, outfit inspirations, projects to pursue, tips and other things I might try and, somewhere, I’m sure, if you searched hard enough, even the odd recipe or two. Ideas don’t seem to be the issue.

But implementation all too often impedes me. I’m a dreamer not a doer. And, alas, here I am with a thousand or so things unfinished…

A painting of a boy

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Have you ever been so head-over
-heels in love that the colours of the world come alive? Of course you have, haven’t we all? Well, I tried to capture them. And his features. Tried and failed of course. A blue canvas boxed away in a room at my parents house for ten years.

A haunted house

A project my childhood self embarked upon one summer holiday. I now have no idea why I was making it and, seeing as I failed to complete it, I am drawn to conclude that its only real purpose in the world was to kill my time

A diary

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Every year I start at least one. My record is somewhere in the middle of March. That adds up to a lot of months missed.

A letter to my boyfriend the time he broke my heart

I am a letter lover. I get it from my mum. And when things go wrong (or sometimes right) I find my feelings best expressed when poured out on a page. He will claim my heart was never broken. He is probably right. He will stress it wasn’t his doing. Right again. But at the time I though that if I was able to write a letter that phrased my feelings in the perfect way he would change his mind. However, writing it took so long that I changed instead.

A map of my world

I have always wanted to plot the places that mean something to me. To mark milestones and make a record of the memories that that I know inside out. To me, there is something missing about the information a map should share. However, making one is a lot harder than it looks.

A decorated home

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I never dreamt I would live in a house with white walls. And I don’t, they are beige. But empty, vacant, all the same. You see it simply seems too much to commit to any one of the oh-so-many schemes or themes our homes might be. Instead I carry unframed art work in the boot of my car. And now the prospect of a new home, another blank canvas…

A baby book

When I was pregnant it all looked so promising. I was so obsessed with that mystery growing inside me that I dedicated all my time to it. Then I gave birth and realised what a lot of time I once had!

The 30 day abs challenge

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So simple in principle. So easy at first. So very, very dull.

An application to London School of Arts

A bid to break away from where I found myself and follow my dream. A dream I wasn’t brave enough to chase the first time. Maybe not even my dream at all.

Knitted toys

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I had enough sticking power for one. It cost me a lot of tears (and very nearly my relationship!) but my daughter is the proud owner of a knitted bear. However, my promise to recreate this as a first gift for all of my pregnant friends has undoubtedly been broken. Sorry girls!

…The list could go on. And here I am with all of these fragments of unfinished things floating around. Some filling up cupboards, occasionally reminding me of their existence as I search out something more pressing whilst others simply drift through my mind and seek me out in the most unlikely of places. However, as diverse as they may be, the effect upon finding them is always the unwelcome common factor.

I feel a failure. I lack a sense of achievement. Why is my focus? My drive?

And, in turn, I dwell on this. I walk the aisles of the supermarket and search for a reason I failed rather than the soup I have been sent to get. I distract myself with what I might have done differently as I drive to work. I lose myself in planning for the next project as I pack my bag for the day ahead.

A dreamer who should be doing the day to day.

What to do when your child uses the F word

Family

I worry far too much about the damage I do to my daughter. Or maybe I don’t worry enough. Or maybe I worry in spite of the fact that the things I worry about won’t be the things she will spend her twenties (and thirties…maybe her fourties…even beyond?) carrying around with her and fighting to let go of and instead these will be some other thing I did to try to save her from myself. Or herself. Who knows? All I know is I want to protect her from it all.

An impossible task.

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Her father and I spend lots of time discussing the language we use with her and around her. After some training at work he became a huge advocate of mindset thinking and took from this that I should ban the word clever (something I say all the time) in favour of telling her that she succeeds because she tries hard. I can see the sense here. However, we then spent the weekend using this phase to a ridiculous degree in regards to any minor success she had. Even she started to look at us as though we were crazy. And in secret I still told her what a clever girl she was. I can’t help myself. I think she needs to know.

But what good does all our worry and concern do? She learnt all too quickly to speak of selfies and emails and characters in shows I have never sat down with her to watch. It’s a big, bad world out there and she’s been taking it all in.

And then she said something shocking.

“Look at Mummy’s fat tummy!”

Aside from being a little offended (ok, I was carrying a few post holiday pounds), I instantly began to worry. Where had she learnt that word? Does she know what it really means?

Since becoming a mother, and in turn a feminist, I have worked hard (and evidently failed) to discuss people in regards to their value as a person rather than their external appearance. I have spent a lot of time (and money!) working on my own sense of self worth so I can be a positive role model as my daughter grows up.

I have VERY strong feelings about this particular F word.

Sadly, I know my partner does too.

And I know that knowing the word in itself is not the terrible thing. Being the person I am, upon hearing this I then ran my mind though the books I read with her; Fat Cat (a story about a large cat nobody realised is about to give birth) was the first title I came to before I’d even got to character names, traits, themes,messages or the other places I thought this word might be hiding.

Now you may think I am paranoid (and you are right, I am), but there was something in the way she said it that told me she knew that this word had the power to hurt. My mind raced and I pictured decades of scars. This was then reinforced when, whilst having a tantrum, she called her father fat too.

And this is why I worry.

Despite my care and concern about the words I use, she has picked up on something greater. She has seen the power and fear of this word elsewhere. Our bathroom scales. My sidewards glances into shop windows. And what else has she learnt whilst watching me ‘get ready’ each morning?

I can’t save her from the words, they are out there. She doesn’t even need to search.

But can I give her the tools, the thinking, to fight the fear when everything else suggests it is a battle that can’t be won?

What might happen if you dare to dream?

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Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived in a dolls house. It was only big enough for her, which was fortunate because that was all she had. And anyway, at the time, it almost felt too much as she sought solace from the big bad world she had been roaming through, wild and free. She found a place for everything and everything in its place. And bit by bit, day by day, the chaos of the world around calmed and she learnt to tame herself too. And then she taught herself how to dream…

But what happens when you get everything you’ve ever dreamt of? Are you happy? Does something feel missing? Or do you dare to dream of more?

This week I stood inside a house: a dream house. A house that the little girl never imagined might be hers. A board outside read sold because that dream house might just be mine.

But dare I dream? Dare I let go of fear and trust in faith? Dare I let my imagination turn impossibilities into hopes and wishes and watch my heart soar?

Because dreams don’t always come true. You hear about it everyday.

I think about that little girl. How she felt. How she behaved. The lessons she taught herself. I remember.

I quietly whisper to my heart and hold on tightly to my hopes with faith…

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Words I carry with me…

Writing

I think my favourite poem of all time has to be William Blake’s ‘A Poison Tree’. I still remember reading it for the first time; sat in Ms Darby’s English lesson, next to my dear friend Jenny, finding refuge from real life in dusty words stacked upon the shelf by our desk. I wouldn’t have been able to explain it then, I was too busy telling you how the world should be, but those words spoke to a part of me that I didn’t want to speak to myself and, once I had read them, I simply couldn’t forget them.

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Subconsciously, I have tried to forget these words. I rarely read them. I have tried to replace them with oh so many others. But they always seem to seek me out.

I have always been an angry person. At least it think I have; I remember so little of my early childhood. Anyway, I struggle with my anger today. I feel this impossible heat rise up from somewhere in my stomach, maybe my soul, and fill every inch of me with an itch, a desire, a burning desire to speak to scream. The back of my throat contracts and I grit my teeth as I battle to silence myself. The tips of my fingers tingle and my muscles clench. My ears buzz. I feel powerful and weak and out of control. I cannot see reason.

Inevitably, the poison is too much for me. It spills out one way or another. A deafening, crashing wave or a slow, steady drip: is one better than the other? And there I hear Blake’s words; wrath, friend, foe, fears, grow, bright, mine, glad…

I am not proud of my anger. It makes me feel ashamed. I am more ashamed still that I still have an inability to control it. I blame it for the things it makes me say and do and all I have left, my only authentic word, is sorry. Repeated again and again and again…

Going to new lengths…

Fashion

Over time, I have come to discover that those last few weeks in August can be something really special. Growing up in a household full of teachers (and going on to continue that tradition), the summer break can often be quite a testing time with all that free time you really should be spending together. But as the holidays draw to a close and thoughts fast forward to the academic year ahead, I have learnt to find an opportunity to think selfishly and fall in love with all that might be…

And, for me, that always includes clothes.

As a teenager, my mum would make time to take me shopping at this time of year; often to Oxford Street where I would be able to project my small town self in to a world where I might be able to wear what I wanted and, in turn, be someone I dreamed I could be. She would (in the main) bite her tongue as I picked up shoes, dresses and skirts that were probably inappropriate and always impractical and then, over lunch out, listen as I endlessly weighed up the pros and cons before drawing my conclusions. I take shopping very seriously. If I was lucky (and I often was. Much luckier than I probably deserved.), I would return on the train clutching a few bags of favoured items to walk the streets of my home town in as if it were an international catwalk. (Thinking back, I remember a little too fondly a lilac Pineapple strappy dress worn with yellow Reebok classics which sadly tells you sometime about my fourteen year old style. But that is another story for another day…)

And yesterday, we re-embarked upon this tradition. Albeit a trip to Milton Keynes with my dad and daughter in tow, sandwiches consumed with a toddler having a tantrum on a bench and my hasty exit as I hurried off to view a house. Oh, to be a grown up! However, in keeping with tradition, I was much luckier than I deserved and returned with a new jacket.

This gave me the bug.

When I woke up this morning to the best bit of the day I picked up my phone (as I always do) and began browsing. Soon I discovered I have a new favourite must have item: midi skirts.

So here are a few of my favourites…

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This full skirt in washed blue is simple, affordable and in a soft colour to see through those remaining summer days.

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The button down the front of this make it just beautiful!

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I have never been able to resist tartan!

As I looked at skirt after skirt I saw why this length is for me; long enough for work, no flashing my pants as I play with my daughter and no doubts over age appropriateness that leave me feeling old.

The I remembered I had already bought one before I left for holiday! A full skirt made of a stiff fabric in a lovely mink colour with pockets! What could be more perfect? And it even matches my new jacket! Bliss!

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The best bits of the day: 5.45am

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I am a lark. Morning is for me. I have never needed an alarm clock because my body just knows; it’s the best bit of the day.

Everyone else is asleep: dreaming. But I am here, almost alone, and dreaming too. I can feel the potential, the possibilities, the promise. I lay here and play out my hopes and wishes and even fears in my head before I have to face them. Somehow it is best this way.

Because, sadly, life has made me a little pessimistic.

I don’t want to be this way. I look for the key to positivity. The secret. Wise words to help me see. Words I want to live by. If I am being really good, it is when I run. Ultimately, I all to often fail, but here, first thing, it feels like something that could be. I try to will it in to being. A day pregnant with the prospect of something different.

I hope with all my heart, as I do every day, that today is that day.

For you as well as me.

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Home Time

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I type this as I travel to the airport. I’m going home. I feel horrid. At least I think I do.

The feeling has snuck up on me slowly. Three weeks away is a long time but never long enough. Or too long? I’m still unsure. All I know is that I always, without fail, hate the final day and that there is no fighting that feeling, no matter how hard I try. And sadly, that knowledge sometimes seeps away at the rest of those weeks.

On Friday I felt it as a longing; homesickness. I missed my bed and my bath, my sheets and my sofa, the choice of my clothes in my wardrobe, the views from my window. Even my car. I knew today was coming and I couldn’t escape it. I wanted to fast forward. Impossible.

At the weekend I wanted to wish that feeling away. I pushed it to the back of my mind and sunk my feet into the sand whilst secretly counting days. I savoured those remaining few moments. The final this, the last that.

Then yesterday it really hit. I hate it.

I woke this morning with it there on my mind. When the flight is late in the day it is always worse. Each final day has taught me to fear it a little more.

Three weeks is a long time to get lost.

I always travel home in my make-up and dressed for life at home, never flip flops. I try to remember who I was when I left; how I felt, what I wore, the outward journey. I try to prepare.

And then the airport. Can there a more transient space? And yet a sea of strangers sit, wait. A pause before something else; something new or something familiar. It seems to be something so strange. Anxiety always finds me here because I cannot quite place myself. I guess that’s why they make you carry your passport.

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The following morning the face in the mirror seems strange: too dark skin and a fuzzy brow. The radio plays an unfamiliar song as piece by piece the the house becomes reanimated. I try to reconnect. I pull on half forgotten clothes and drink water straight from the tap. I try to place myself.

Three weeks is a long time. Long enough to forget. It will a few days to find my feet here. Probably longer.