|If this is wrong, I don't want to be right. And I ALWAYS want to be right.|
Saturday, 6 December 2014
Tuesday, 21 October 2014
That being said, sometimes it's nice to just stop, take stock and appreciate how lucky we really are; and as today marks nine whole years since I landed in Spain ready to start a new life, it seems only fitting to do so now.
I suppose the thing about being happy is that it never looks how you expect it to. If I'd been asked back then where I wanted to be nine years down the line, I don't think any of my current life would have featured. I don't spend my days writing a best-selling novel while sipping wine in my very own beach bar; I'm in bed by 11 most nights and I never did marry a dashing Spaniard (for which I'm sure Mat is eternally grateful). Instead, my happiness comes from places I'd have found equally boring and terrifying in my early twenties.
I didn't plan to stay in the first country I got sent to as a holiday rep back in 2005, so falling completely in love with the first town I worked in came as a shock. Being moved from there after only 6 months to a place I did not like in the slightest took the shine off my job for me, yet losing that same job 12 months later felt like a disaster. My heart broke when I left Andalucía to move north with Mat, and it was breaking again when I packed up my things and left the home we had made in a little Costa Brava town to strike out on my own in Barcelona.
Yet these setbacks, difficult and sometimes painful as they were to overcome, set me on a path to the life I have now. It was in Barcelona that I finally began to settle, that I became part of a wonderful group of friends, that I gained in confidence and started liking myself. It was this city, "trapped between a crescent of mountains and a sea of light, a city filled with buildings that could exist only in dreams," where a life built itself around me and I finally felt like I'd come home.
Things are very different now to they were when I first got here - people have moved on, nights out have become something I plan weeks in advance and seeing my lovely friends is now an occasional luxury rather than a daily pleasure, but the rarity of this only serves to make me appreciate it more.
Saturday, 11 October 2014
Of course, a quiet toddler is usually a happy toddler - they're not known for their ability to let their feelings stagnate into ulcers, so it's unlikely that you'd ever have an uncomfortable "Are you OK?" "I'm FINE" conversation with anyone under 3. Generally, when they're pissed off, you know about it. However, those in the know - you'll know them by their eye bags and general demeanour of not quite concentrating - will be more than happy to inform you that contrary to all laws of sense and decency, a quiet toddler is very often NOT A GOOD THING AT ALL. Because when a toddler is quiet, things like this happen:
|Yes, this happened today. |
Tuesday, 30 September 2014
Tuesday, 16 September 2014
Once I'd had that thought and the guilt didn't kill me, it slipped in another couple of times when he was being a handful. I started to think about what I'd do in the days between him going back to nursery and me going back to work, and the fantasies of a solo coffee without having to repeat, "Lovely cup of tea" all the way through; deep cleaning the house; taking those towels back to Primark without having to carry the buggy up a million stairs to change metro lines; actually browsing in Primark rather than running through at the speed of light because Dom has his father's aversion to clothes shops; maybe even squeezing in a morning at the beach if the weather holds; all of these thoughts took hold whenever he had a handful of the tiny hairs on the back of neck that he refused to relinquish or thought it was hilarious to bite my bum (WHERE do they get these ideas from)?
Now, however, it's the night before he starts back and I'm nowhere near ready to let him go again. Despite the fact that we've had 10 wonderful weeks and he's had plenty of fun and intellectual stimulation; despite being lucky enough to be able to give him the kind of sunshine and sand and swimming summer that I dreamed of as a kid; despite usually being patient and involved and on hand; I can't help wishing we just had one more week where it - where I - could be BETTER. Every moment I checked my emails or silently begged for just two minutes to finish something or rolled my eyes at his demands to see the mole on my back for the 50th time now feels like a precious, wasted moment.
But while I'm beating myself up about being a human being, I have moments to look back on such as this:
Thursday, 11 September 2014
Thursday, 10 July 2014
However, a few weeks ago, I let my guard down for a second. I don't know why - I could say it was because it was Saturday and I was tired from working nights, or I'd had a dingdong with Mat, or it was the 8th time in a minute Dom had tried to break my glasses. I could, but I won't, because I'm not looking to make excuses for myself. That's not what this is about.
So, he launched himself at my glasses like a crazy baby, grabbed them off my face and proceeded to pull the arms in opposite directions. Without thinking, I exclaimed "NO!", tapped the back of his hand a couple of times with two of my fingers and took the glasses from him. Physically, it wouldn't pass muster as a smack or a spanking - it didn't hurt him or leave a mark. It was probably about as much force as you'd use when tapping your wrist to let someone know they're late. To be honest, I exert more effort when patting his bum in the way he likes at night, the way that sends him to sleep while he drinks his milk. The difference here was the intent. I wasn't soothing him with rhythmic pats, I was using force to show him that I disliked his behaviour, and I was immediately and crushingly ashamed of myself. I apologised to him and promised him that it wouldn't happen again.
The sense of shame didn't leave immediately, but eventually I resolved to stop beating myself up about a mistake and learn from the experience. I was still shot through with darts of regret every time I thought about it, but I made sure I did some reading on how best to handle similar situations and Dom made sure I had plenty of opportunities to put the theories into practice.
After a week or so, we'd put it behind us - or so I thought. Then something happened that made the shame I'd endured before feel like a mere pinprick of guilt. I had hold of Dom when, once again, he snatched at my glasses. He'd done it several times since "that" time, so I don't know what it was about this particular time that was different, but as I gently liberated them from his eager hands, he stuck out his left hand and tapped himself twice on the back of it with two fingers of his right.
My heart turned over and I felt - still feel - like the biggest failure there ever was. In that instant, I saw almost two years of being calm, patient, gentle and loving go down the toilet. In one moment of lowered guard, my baby boy had learned that he got hit when he did something I didn't like, and the knowledge that he'd learned from me made me feel sick.
There's nothing I can do to change what's already been done - I can't go back in time and change that moment, though I wish wholeheartedly that I could. Dom hasn't reprimanded himself like that since (though he often tells himself, too late, that he's not allowed to climb on the table by gleefully shouting "Get down, you menace!"), and his ongoing obsession with my glasses indicates that he's by no means traumatised by the incident. I can't quite say the same for myself - I still writhe with remorse every time I think of it and I don't think I'll ever fully forgive myself for teaching him a lesson I'd have preferred him to never have learned. All I can do now is hope that all of my good teaching before and since eventually obliterates that memory from his brain, and make sure that every lesson he learns from here on in is a positive and peaceful one.
Most people I know would think nothing of a swift smack to the bum or a sharp tap on the back of the hand, and they'll probably think I'm crazy for being so upset by it. Be that as it may, I'm not happy with myself for reacting in that way and I plan to make sure it's the first and last time. Others may judge me harshly for my momentary lapse in control, and I can't stop that. I suppose by writing about it, I'm inviting that criticism. I just hope that the majority of people can remember a time when they struggled or failed, and I hope that they too resolved to let it be a lesson, not a loss.
Monday, 23 June 2014
"What's that, my love? Neenor?" Hmmm. Is he getting a bit too obsessed with neenor? I don't want him watching too much telly. I suppose an episode of Fireman Sam only lasts 10 minutes. I can settle him down with that and a banana and I can get stuck into the dishes before we go out.
Right, that's that sorted. He's happy. Let's crack on with this kitchen. Crap, forgot to give him his banana. Where's the tea towel? Oh sod it, a bit of soapy water never hurt anyone.
Surely we can't have eaten all those bananas? I only bought new ones the other day. I've told him he can have fruit now... maybe he's forgotten. He IS pretty engrossed in Fireman Sa - "Yes my angel? I'm sorry, we haven't got any bananas, my love. Hang on, let's see what else we've got... pears, apples, cherries... OK, cherries? OK, I heard you! Go and sit down and I'll bring you some cherries. I know! I know you want cherries! I'm bringing them in now!"
Must buy a cherry pitter. In the meantime, where's the little knife? Oh, at the bottom of the sink under all the other dirty dishes. Fine, no worries, I've got nails. Oof, I need a wee.
"Here you go, babyface." Right, dishes. What's that over there? Ah, THAT'S why he was so quick to finish his sandwich. Half of it is under the coffee table. Let's just grab that brush from the kitchen. There, sorted. That'll do for now, I'll brush properly later. Dustpan... where is the dustpan? Why isn't the dustpan WITH the brush? Isn't that the logical place for it to - oh, no, apparently the logical place is under the bed with the dustbunny population of the world. I'll just grab that brush.
"Oh, Dom, really?!" Note to self - don't leave a toddler with a pile of crumbs. They can't resist. So it looks like I AM brushing properly now. Might as well brush my way into the kitchen.
It's getting a bit too hot to leave the butter out now, I'd better stick it in the fridge. Jesus, what's that? Has it got legs? Cloth, cloth, where's the cloth? This fridge needs a good cleaning. I'll do it later. For now, let's just wipe up whatever this is and get back to the dishes. Ooh, strawberries! Forgot they were there. I'll have them when Dom goes for a sleep. Well, might as well have a couple now, keep me going.
Didn't I have a cup of tea? Ah, there it is. Bit cold but nothing the microwave won't sort out. God, that microwave is vile. Whatever Mat defrosted for his tea last night appears to have taken violently against the process. Would it kill him to clean it BEFORE it encrusted itself to the glass? I'll have to put it in soak. After I've warmed my tea up.
Dom's very quiet, that's ominous. Let's see if I can see him without him seeing me or it's game over. CHRIST ALMIGHTY IS THAT BLOOD? Oh, thank God, it's only cherries. Bloody cherries. Shit, there's some on the wall. Better get that off before it stains. Please come off. PLEASE! Crap, looks like we're repainting. Again. Should just do it black and have done with it, except he'd probably just wipe his nose on it if we did. Can't win. What was that saying about cleaning the house with kids around being like snow or something? No, it's gone. I'll Google it.
Where's my phone? When did I last have it? I was looking up the number for the dentist this morning, then I put it in my bag, which is in the hall. "Dom, what have we said about emptying Mama's bag?". Half of this stuff needs to go in the bin anyway. I don't know why I'm carrying it around with me. No wonder my back hurts. I wonder if I can wangle a back rub tonight? If I don't pick on him about the microwave he might go for it.
The microwave! My tea! Shitting hell. One day I'll learn to put it on for 30 seconds at a time. At least the crusty cheese has had a bit of a soak now. Still need a wee. Let's just check on Dom. Yep, he's fine. Toilet, here I come. Oh, God that's nic- "What? Milk? You need milk RIGHT NOW? OK, just let me get off the toilet and we'll - oh, OK, no, we're breastfeeding right here." On the toilet. That's sanitary. There's a meme in here somewhere.
When did I last put the mould stuff around the tiles? Looks like it needs doing again. I thought the point of it was that it KILLED mould? I wasn't aware that mould could resurrect itself. Maybe it's been reading the Bible. Or Pet Sematary. Yeah, this bathroom is definitely more Stephen King than hallelujah.
"Dom, shall we play with your blocks? No? OK, you play on your truck. Mama's just going to start the kitchen. Nappy change? Come on then."
Christ, that stinks. How can one tiny, beautiful person produce such a stench? Quick, into the bin before it explodes or something. Bin needs emptying. Binbags? Oh, don't say we've got no binbags! Ah, there they are. I'll have to leave this outside the back door until we're going out. At this rate, we'll be lucky to make it before it bio-degrades. Worst case scenario, Mat can take it down when he gets in.
Speak of the devil. "Hiya babe, you're home early! Fancy a brew? I'll make you a sandwich if you want, there's some cheese left. Just let me - WHAT WAS THAT?!" No harm done, just a shock. And that's why we don't pull Mama's books off the shelf.
"Mat, remember to use a chopping board, I've just wiped that down. Sorry, sorry, I know you're not stu- GET A PLATE! How many times!" Good lord, it's like having two kids sometimes. Did I say that out loud? Phew, don't want to jeopardise my back rub.
How can one man make such a mess in 45 seconds rubbing butter onto bread and applying cheese? I swear it looks like Armageddon in here. I give up. Let's just go to the park.
Shit, forgot the binbag.
Thursday, 19 June 2014
I keep seeing all of this judgement online
Critical of how we're all spending our time
Assuming because I've got hold of my phone
I'm socially inept and feeling alone
I have to admit, I dislike your assumption
That our use of these tools is purely consumption
Mindless and brainless and begging for more
You've no way of knowing what I use it for
From the brief glimpse you have, there's no way you can know
If I'm allowing the creative juices to flow
Writing a novel or completing this poem
In case I forget it before I get home
Connecting with family who live over the sea
Brought closer together by technology
Or maybe I'm disproving cosmic expansion
Is that important enough to warrant your sanction?
I think most of all I feel sorry for mothers
They seem to have it worse than the others
If they glance at their phone they're ignoring their child
Neglecting the baby or letting kids run wild
Maybe you think I'm being defensive
For finding your judgement a little offensive
I do understand that too much can cause damage
But I resent that you feel that my life's yours to manage
The irony is, now your video's gone viral
You're a contributor to the downward spiral
Every time you walk past someone and judge what they do
The chances are, they're watching YOU.
Friday, 13 June 2014
Personality-wise, we're starting to see the person emerge from the babyish appearance. He's funny, in a way I didn't know people could be without language. In fact, he is side-splittingly hilarious; bringing tears of laughter to our eyes and the sharp pain of overwhelming love to our hearts on a daily, hourly basis. His affection is a goal we pursue every minute of every day and his attention is the sun on frozen limbs. His new-found opinions, as critical to him as oxygen, are unshakeable and forceful, and when he loves, he does so with every drop of energy his miniature little body holds.
Wednesday, 11 June 2014
I have an acquaintance who objects to pregnant women being offered seats on public transport. He considers himself a well-mannered individual, but strongly believes that pregnancy is not a medical condition and that, because a woman can choose to become or remain pregnant, doing so negates any claim she may feel she has to "special treatment".
As you can probably guess, this attitude elicited a fierce response from me. ("Fierce" being the word I choose when describing thing to people like, say, my mother. "Profane" would work just as well). In the ensuing heated exchange of views, I concurred that yes, pregnancy in itself is not a medical condition. However, leaving aside the myriad medical conditions that can and frequently do tag along with this "normal part of life," a pregnant woman is the most vulnerable she will ever be. Physically larger, slower and clumsier, she is also permanently aware of and responsible for her cargo in a way nobody who has not carried a baby, either in their arms or their womb, can ever fully understand. Try holding an egg on public transport at rush hour without breaking it. Now imagine that breaking the egg will lead to your physical and emotional destruction.
During the course of the discussion, a recurring theme emerged from the spilled words of my opponent - oops, fellow conversationalist. It's one I recognised, one I've heard before from other people - not directed at me in particular, but always at unspecified "women". "Women," apparently, have an inflated sense of their own importance when they're pregnant. "Women" expect special treatment for doing what billions of women have done before. "Women" should just get on with it; and stop making such a big deal about it. "Women" think the world should bow down to them, just because they've had sex and have a bump to prove it. Never a name; never a person; nary even an example as proof of these accusations.
At the time, I focused my arguments on simple facts, details that really should be common knowledge and common sense. I provided information about the debilitating fatigue, constant nausea and dizziness that can strike women during the first trimester; the back ache, heaviness and sheer exhaustion of dragging around an extra ten pounds of baby, liquid and placenta in the last few months. I mentioned the more severe side effects, the women with hyperemesis gravidarum whose stomachs forcefully reject everything that enters for the entire nine months, those who suffer from symphysis pubis dysfunction and find walking incredibly painful; the multitude of other conditions that can be caused or aggravated by this "perfectly normal" part of life.
Of course, all of the above makes pregnancy sound like nine months of relentless misery. For many people, this isn't the case. Some women (I was lucky enough to be one of them) sail through pregnancy with only a bit of heartburn or a few sore ribs to mar the experience of creating new life. However, there is no often way of knowing whether the tired-looking woman with the rounded stomach on the train looks a bit worn because she was tripping the light fantastic until 3am (though chances are, she wasn't); or because her energy has been drained from her like blood from a leeched wound by the almost unbearable agony of simply standing on a bus. There's no way to know, and I'd always prefer to err on the side of caution.
Thinking about it now, there is something I wish I'd said. I wish I hadn't tried to defend my pregnant sisters simply by listing all of the medical reasons for being a decent human being, but had stood up strong in acknowledgment and pride against what the world seems to think of as the cardinal sin of the pregnant woman - the accusation that we "think we're special". There’s a trend nowadays to downplay this everyday miracle and pretend that it’s nothing more important than dealing with a crappy customer or a botched business deal – inconvenient, annoying and potentially able to ruin your day, but nothing out of the ordinary.
I wish I'd responded that yes, it is special. It's special and it's brave and it's fucking wonderful. Every woman going through it deserves a medal, never mind a seat on a smelly old train. In fact, fuck that - what would we want with a medal? It's just one more thing to clean. We deserve a daily massage, a bubble bath, our favourite meal cooked for us and someone else to take care of the laundry. We're bloody amazing. We're courageous, heroic and strong, every one of us doing this thing that happens every day.
We're brave because we knowingly and with intent put ourselves completely at the mercy and in the service of another human being, one who knows no compassion and has no social skills. We embrace chaos, bid goodbye to life as we knew it and become at once the protector of innocence and more dependent and vulnerable than we knew it was possible to be. We commit ourselves 100% to a venture that all the books and classes in the world couldn't possibly prepare us for, and we do it on no sleep.
But you know what the bravest thing of all is? We love, adore, worship, and set our entire being around SOMEONE ELSE. We remove our hearts from our chests and our sleeves and send them out into an unpredictable world which really couldn't give a shit about any of this. Anyone who hasn't loved a child can't come close to the fear, the obsession, the addiction, the love. You think you love ice cream or your mother? You think you'd be lost without your husband or your best friend? Multiply that by a million, then imagine that your mother is completely fucking helpless, that your husband is constantly, suicidally obsessed with electricity or crawling off high tables onto tiled floors, that your best friend has to be trusted with strangers who may or may not want to shoot or kidnap or assault her when she can't even open her fucking mouth to tell people that her shoes are on the wrong feet. Now imagine signing up for a lifetime of this and doing it while loving every terrifying minute.
Yeah, we're fucking brave. Yes, it is special. And no, I don't give a rat's arse if you agree with me or not. Now step away from the seat, matey, and go and call your mother to tell her you love her.
Friday, 30 May 2014
|Our Rach gets the credit for the fab photos.|
It's hard to write about Liverpool because on the one hand, there is so much to say that I feel I could be here for donkey's years, but on the other hand it's been immortalised in so many books, articles, songs, poems etc that it's hard not to feel like I'm being imitative or being clichéd. So forgive me if this is a bit bitty.
During my brief trip to Liverpool recently, I was reminded, as I always am when there, of the many reasons I love it. I'm lucky enough to call two amazing cities home, but there's something about Liverpool that can't be matched. I haven't travelled anywhere near as much as I'd like to, but I'm willing to bet that nowhere in the world has the same ability to put a smile on my face and earn a place in the hearts of the millions of tourists who pass through it every year.
My relationship with Liverpool is a little unusual compared to most Scouse girls in that fashion, one of the city's main attractions for many, is a source of terror for me. A night out in Liverpool usually begins with me rummaging through my case in panic, holding up items that I'd wear on a big night out in Barcelona and having them dismissed as "too scruffy to go for your tea in" in Liverpool. There's usually a slightly heated debate about why I'm not wearing heels - I'm of the opinion that walking like a lorry driver in them, risking a broken ankle before I've even got in the taxi, being completely unable to enjoy any of my night out and not being able to bend my knee for a week afterwards is sufficient reason to steer clear, but that doesn't cut it with Scousers. Pain is beauty and an unwillingness to suffer for longer-looking legs indicates a defect in my character that deems me not quite acceptable in certain circles. Thankfully, I can now pretend that whatever I want to wear is all the rage in Barcelona, therefore blaming all of the above on "living abroad", rather than "being shit at fashion", and thus ensuring that my visits home are less sartorial stress, more six-pack-inducing laughter.
Oh, the laughter. It's almost clichéd to mention humour when writing about Liverpool, so ingrained is it in the collective psyche of the city. Even across the rest of the country, Liverpool is known for its incessant need to make people laugh. Love them or hate them, Scousers aren't to be ignored.
Apart from the sheer joy of being surrounded by my lunatic family with their hilarious stories, there were a couple of moments that stood out for me. Both took place in discount shops, which makes me think that there's something about a bargain that brings out the comedian in Scousers. While waiting to pay in Poundland, I overheard a couple of teenage girls ask the cashier, "Can we get served with hair dye?". The question was innocent enough and the answer was negative, but it made me laugh - back when I was that age, I was worrying about getting served with illicit cider or Lambert and Butler. Obviously the younger generation of Scouse women are more concerned with their appearances than with destroying their health via White Lightning, which can only be a good thing.
The second overheard nugget of comedy gold came from a couple of lads stacking shelves in B & M, where I'd headed in search of dry shampoo (how did I ever live without this miracle product? And WHY hasn't Spain cottoned onto how wonderful it is yet?). Displaying an enviable level of commitment to the retail trade, one asked the other, "Ay lad, would you rather work in Marksie's or Morrisons?" His colleague, clearly a thrillseeker, replied, "Nah, I want a job in the Asda - it's MAD in there!" Luckily enough the Asda was our next stop so I kept my eyes peeled for any evidence of debauchery amongst the staff, but they were all disappointingly well-behaved and offered no glimpse of the wildness that they apparently keep hidden beneath their green polyester blouses. Sadly, it failed to even live up to the post-Christmas shopping trip when we were in the right aisle at the right time as they knocked the giant Cadbury's Roses Fudges down from a fiver to a pound, though to be fair, that day would take some beating.
The thing I love about Liverpool is that Scousers will talk to anyone. In the queue at that same B & M, I found out how the lad behind the counter deals with his monobrow (wax - he's not a fan of shaving). My mum told anyone who'd listen, which was a LOT of people, that I live in Spain and she's coming to visit in July. I found an alternative to Johnson's tanning moisturiser courtesy of a tip from the fella on the till in Primark, and gave his colleague some hints for his forthcoming trip to Barcelona. It's just a friendly place. I miss that.
Monday, 28 April 2014
I accidentally deleted a comment from somebody who didn't leave their name, while trying to remove the typos from my reply. The comment was something like "Brave would be telling him to his face, not hiding behind a blog." I decided to respond via a new post, in the spirit of taking the rough with the smooth and in the interests of not censoring people just because I disagree with them.
Who's hiding? The blog is no secret to either my family or Mat's and my photo is right up there. If we're Facebook friends, you'll see that I'm not slow to claim and promote my posts under my personal page. He'll see it.
Are you suggesting that I get on a plane to a different country to tell someone who doesn't want to speak to me that I don't want to speak to him either? Seems a little excessive.
But hey, you stay anonymous while talking about hiding and telling others how to be brave. I enjoy a bit of irony.
Sunday, 27 April 2014
You probably wonder how I can sit here imagining that I'll never do the same to Dom, because he hasn't had the chance to hurt or disappoint me yet. In answer, I'll once again direct you to Mat. Our relationship is far from perfect and we've hurt each other on multiple occasions, but we still love each other dearly and deeply. We forgive each other, we try to help each other do better next time. In doing so, we demonstrate to Dom the very values that we hope to instil in him, and we show him that even when you mess up badly, your family will always be home. I've spent ten years showing this to Mat, and will spend the rest of my life teaching it to our child.
As you don't seem able to do that, I have another request regarding your little conscience-easing cards. As I mentioned above, I feel very strongly about the bond between a child and their grandparents. It is a source of intense sorrow to me that Dominic is not going to grow up with that depth of love from a grandfather, not going to know that behind Mama and Dad there is another force, immovable in its ability to love and sustain. I want to give my son everything the world has to offer, but I can't give him the best thing I ever had - a grandfather who would move mountains to be near him. And I won't give him instead a grandfather who won't even pick up the phone. I won't give him a cash-flashing imitation of a grandad.
So, please, don't sign yourself "Gramps". A Gramps holds hands, not envelopes of money. A Gramps balances babies on his knee, not chequebooks to make himself feel better. A Gramps goes to the park with his grandkids, not to the bank for them. We wanted Dom to have your presence, not your presents. If that's not happening, don't assume a relationship you don't have. Sign yourself Stephen, and accept the relationship you chose.