Foot Loose and Baby Free

Tagline (to replace the title box which is just not behaving this week)

The Art of ProcreNOPEtion

This week has been a joyous week Readers. You will, I’m sure, be pleased to find out that a new baby has joined the TMM clan and I am once again an auntie-in-law (fourth times a charm). TMM’s sister Jenbob masterfully birthed a whopper of a tot (9lb 13!) who is healthy, happy and has possibly the best cheeks I have ever seen in my entire life.

We actually went to see her the day before at TMM’s parents house, whilst she was just there having the most casual attitude to having contractions ever and I was sort of abstractly terrified about being so close to someone who was literally about to pop. She is actually some kind of magical goddess and I won’t hear a word said otherwise; just watching her throw Thea (her firstborn) about as directed (Thea is very knowledgeable about what she wants) whilst going through what looked to be some pretty sore spasms was kind of mind blowing. Pregnant women in general are pretty awe inspiring to me (their bones actually move apart like they’re some kind of biological Transformers, WHAT EVEN IS THAT) and watching them just go about their daily lives being awesome and huge and glowy is immensely pleasing for me.

It’s strange though (and my description of them as some kind of zoo animal might make a tad more sense now), because I don’t plan on ever joining their ranks and having children of my own; I don’t think I ever have. I don’t remember being into dolls or the like when I was little – I very much preferred Lego, hot wheels cars and believed, much as I do now, that the plastic babies with bodily functions were just obscene. Indeed, the only baby name I ever considered was Helmclough and perhaps the my reasons for abstaining are becoming clearer, are they not?


Truthfully though, it was always just a kind of far off concern when I was younger, and I assumed that one grew into one’s urge for maternity. But the general feeling of Nopeness has never really gone away, despite the age limit getting closer and closer and the older I get, the more I realise that this seems to be a Hard Pass for me. People keep telling me that it will change and my urge to Mum Up will blossom from within, but to be honest I find it more likely that my insistence against them will last out far longer than any socially accepted conventions, if only because I secretly love to be contrary. Children have just never really appealed to me. There seem to be countless reasons to leave the whole notion to someone else, one of the biggies being because they are a lot of responsibility and I can’t be trusted to feed myself if left unattended for three days, never mind look after a helpless human being for 16 years+. There is a huge impetus to not Screw Them Up, and I don’t think I am able to keep myself in check, nevermind be one of the major players in creating a brand new, non-psychopathic, fully functioning person in their own right. That is a craft project that, being the lowkey perfectionist that I am, I don’t think there are enough YouTube tutorials to make me good at.

It’s a commitment though, to something that is so much bigger than you and bring with it just so many terrifying consequences. Babies are simultaneously horribly fragile and weirdly resilient. Like one awkwardly placed head squish and you’ve caused massive lasting mental trauma (thanks for that fun phobia, Grapes of Wrath) but you can chuck them in a swimming pool or dribble them like a basketball and they’re fine (disclaimer, I do not intentionally bounce babies, or leave them unattended in large bodies of water, but you get what I’m saying). They’re a contraction in terms, and it stresses me that they start off so helpless when giraffes can walk within minutes, yet end up being the top of the food chain (and giraffes are like, a third, of the way down). Their entire existence boils down to your ability to look after them, and that doesnt go away when they can dress themselves. I still rely on my parents for so much now, and I am a supposedly fully functioning grown up. That is just not the kind of long term promise I can give to someone, especially someone who just popped into existence at my insistence.

I am also super duuuuper lazy, and in no way have enough upper body strength to carry a small person either inside or outside my womb. Whilst visiting Jenbob and the clan, Thea demanded I watch the Wiggles with her and she not only pulled me round the room, she played me for a sucker and stole my glasses like some kind of back room card shark. Distressingly, not only did she con me well enough to steal them directly off my face (the toy phone was for me and as I leant down to answer it, her grabby hands were there) she also had a fierce little grasp and I couldn’t actually pry them off her and was seconds away from just giving up and accepting my new blurry outlook on life. Thankfully they were intercepted and returned to me, but if I can’t outwit or outweigh a not-quite two year old, I really don’t think I should be considering one of my own.

It did make me wonder though, in a way I don’t actually think I’ve really pondered before, if I’ll regret never being pregnant. It’s something my body is primed for but my brain is not. I just don’t appear have the internal ticking time bomb of missed motherhood opportunites that seems to be rife in 20+ year old women. I’m repeatedly told it will happen but at 27, I’m beginning to suspect I missed the memo. It does seem to be a shame because I have the pelvic floor muscles of an absolute beast and what I’m told by the smear nurse is an unusually narrow vagina, so I imagine the whole area would bounce back if nothing else, but what they hey. I think it’s just one of those distant regrets that will pepper my life, the overshadowing fear being stronger than any lingering curiosity. As someone pointed out to me, once it’s in there, it has to come out one way or another, and the actual act of giving birth makes my ribcage constrict. Just knock me unconscious and take it out through the sunroof.

I’ve never seen motherhood as the goal though, nor as something that will truly make me a women. There’s a huge social undercurrent, a shared subconscious psyche, that a woman is there to procreate, and on an evolutionary level I get it, but the world has changed and it’s not the same anymore. I am confident enough in my womanhood to not believe that my not having a baby is a waste and I’m happy to repeat that to anyone who says otherwise. I am lucky enough to be alive in a time where it is my choice, and I’m exercising my right.
Obviously though, it takes two to tango (or not tango as the case may be) and I am lucky enough to be in a relationship with someone who is happy with this. We’ve talked about it quite often; it routinely comes up whenever we’re faced with children, and TMM has said he’s happy with it just being the two of us for the foreseeable. I’m not 100% sure if this was a decision he would make for himself in another situation, and I do occasionally wonder if he will resent me for it eventually, but he has never been anything but supportive and agreeable with the whole shebang. It is a shame, if only because I am pretty convinced that if anyone could take mantle for world’s best dad, it would be him, but he’s doing well on the uncle-ing front and I think he’s getting his fill of chubby cheeks and tiny hands (he does so love the tiny grabby hands) from our various nieces and nephews.

It doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate them though (it possibly makes me love them all the more, knowing I can fill them full of sugar, shake them and give them back before returning to my quiet home, full of dangerously sharp and fragile nickknacks (Thea unerring finds all our pen knives, for we have many, and appears suddenly appears round corners like a tiny Wolverine). The idea of them pleases me greatly, and I am more than happy to be cool aunt who spoils them rotten and teaches them all the best swear words. Though quite how happy various parents will be after reading of my intentions is yet to be decided…

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Ho Ho Hungover


So I suffered potentially my first three (3) day long hangover this weekend, at the grand old age of 27, which was a new and I have to say distinctly unpleasant experience.  If this is what getting old is, I would like to say I’ve changed my mind and would like a refund please.

It was my work’s Christmas do on Friday, and after the pleasantly surprisingly success of last year (I literally did nothing except drink and dance to Daniel Bedingfield songs) I was actually quite looking forward to this one. My team had been planning “Prinks” (or pre drinks for the uninitiated), simultaneous party prep and had even compiled a playlist of classic “bangin’ toons” to start the evening off with, and by the time it came round to it we were all pretty excited. 

Looking back now, I’m not really surprised at the turn of events that led to such an awful and distressingly lengthy hangover. Despite all my very careful prior planning (I was going to stick to sensible similar drinks, eat well and have a glass of water and tablets before bed) by the time we actually arrived at Revs, I was already pretty mashed. Skip forward about 8 hours and we ended up slumped in a pile in Pizzarama stuffing our faces with greasy garlic bread. We eventually made it home at about 4am after countless countless cocktails, about 7 thousand shots and 8 hours of hardcore dancing and by the time I actually got through the front door I was basically a dehydrated twig with sore feet (though kudos to my pal Zo for her strong work on her falsie application because my lashes were still fly as f***).

I do have to admit to being rather proud that we’re actually still alive. I can’t actually remember the last time TMM and I made it to that time – TMM automatically clocks out at 10pm and has been found slumped in pub corners snoring gently to himself and I pretty much go from being hyperactively chipper to ready for bed in about 3 minutes flat. We partied hard though and had the accolade of being one of the last stragglers out. TMM also managed to fully endear himself to all of my colleagues (of which I never had any doubt) and made for some great photo opportunities.

We are the epitome of class

With all that being said, the following morning was only to be expected really. Oddly, I woke up feeling rough but nowhere near as awful as one would think. I was even able to drag myself out of bed and to the local shop (admittedly I didn’t look great) for supplies; consisting of Lucozade, a chicken and bacon sandwich and chocolate buttons) whilst TMM huddled under the duvet groaning pathetically. We proceeded to nest and rehydrate for a few hours before peeling ourselves out of our pity party and gingerly making out way to Molly’s to walk the dog. Unfortunately by that point, I was rapidly deteriorating and had to return to bed by 8pm with a headache that was so bad I couldn’t see and lie in the dark with a flannel on my eyes groaning softly.

Sunday was a little better; though I did have a mild breakdown at my inability to open the golden syrup, we managed to tidy up the apparent bomb site we’d created in our drunken states and finish a couple of Christmas presents. Returning to work on Monday, I was pleased to see the rest of my team struggling with the same kind of fugue like daze, wild hair and crazed and exhausted expressions. Thankfully we have mostly recovered now, but we’ve all got high hopes for the company conference in January.

Thinking back on some of our exploits from Friday (including but not limited to our re-enactment of the Dirty Dancing Lift and some of our less classier poses) has lead me down the somewhat shaded lane of other drunken memories. I thought perhaps now might be the perfect interlude to share some previous experiences with you (some of which will feature me in the spot light, but some of which may be about my dad or friend Jbear).

Something that you may or may not be surprised to learn about me is that I didn’t really drink much until I started University. I was a very timid and easily startled child and didn’t really embrace late nights and loud noises in those days. I think I was fully prepared to be very much the same at Uni, but sharing a block with 15 engaging and hilarious strangers pretty much shocked me right out of that. Whilst I didn’t live quite as energetically as some, I definitely started to adopt more of an outgoing lifestyle. Partly I think this was because under my crusty antisocial exterior lies a devilish party girl, but mostly I think it’s because I met Jbear, my American sister from another Mister. Our relationship was forged in one night of stupid memes and we never looked back. In fact, my very first true experience of what can only be classed as a “drunken shambles” centres entirely around her, some chips and a box of mulled wine (yes, you read that correctly). Oddly enough, that was another Christmas party (I’m sensing a theme here); a gathering in my block of all housemates and various hangers on. Jbear and I had adorably matched outfits (weirdly not on purpose, we were just that in-tune) and what started with some festive tunes and giggles rapidly devolved into drinking cheap mulled beverages straight from their shiny silver foil bladders (£5 for about 2 litres) and ended with Jbear throwing up bright purple chips into the downstairs shower room. Due to the unfortunate chunky nature of the vomit and the unnecessarily tiny holes in the plug, I was forced to poke most of the mess in with my bare hands whilst Jbear lay on the floor alternating between laughing hysterically, telling me how much she loved me and sobbing brokenly. Poor Jbear was, quit literally, hanging after that and spent the rest of the weekend on my dad’s couch in his pjs feeling sorry for herself whilst I told anybody who listened how much fun we’d had.

This isn’t even a picture from that weekend (or even the right house) but it is pretty much a perfect representation of how we spent half of our time. Also this was one of the clearest photos – apparently we were incapable of using phone cameras in those days.

Sadly Jbear only stayed for a year, though I am pretty sure we made the best of that. After she returned to the good old US of A, leaving me in the capable hands of TMM, I was forced to go on partying without her (until I went to visit her in Ohio and got so drunk playing beer pong I am surprised she didn’t end up poking my vomit down a plug hole). For the most part though, I was mostly very sensible and drank in moderation, enjoying the highlights of University life without waking up in a bush or making a complete tit out of myself in the union bar. 

This was before the beer pong game even started

Unfortunately I do have to say mostly, as there is one particular scenario which does not fit the criteria of sensible moderation. There is, in fact, one specific night that I’m pretty sure still brings TMM out in panicked hives. Let me set you the scene – it’s the height of summer, there is a beach theme party at the union and I’ve got a fabulous flowery dress. The sun in shining, the birds are singing and I am annoyed because I have to work until 7pm, despite my best attempts to swap shifts. Whilst this might not seem like the most tragic situation in hindsight, I was practically inconsolable at missing out on valuable prinks time with my friends and in my infinitely flawed wisdom, thought it would be best to catch up in the shortest amount of time possible once my shift had finished. To that end, I proceeded to down a couple of unnecessarily strong shots before we made our way to the party. It is possibly pertinent to point out at this point that we stopped off at a friend’s block on campus to pick up some other people (and do a few more shots in my case). For reasons that I couldn’t fathom at the time, half of them seemed to be sober and not eager enough to catch up to my level and after an hour or so of chatter and games, it was decided that a few of us should go onto the union alone as a kind of exploration party and the rest would join us later. 

Check out those classy digs. Little did I know how my evening was going to end…

Fast forward about an hour to 10 o’clock and I am starting to regret my choices. Some dancing, some candy floss and, shockingly, some more shots had started to curdle internally and I was forced to make my way to the nearest available bathroom. It was here that I was found by my friend, who told me later through hysterical laughter that I had taken my shoes and glasses off and put them neatly to one side before curling round the toilet to have a quiet chunder. She managed to convince me to let go of my death grip of the porcelain and deposited me with TMM, who took one look and decided that it was home time. It was as he was guiding (read: carrying) me out that we bumped into the rest of our party who were literally just coming in. Shamefacedly, he led me back across campus, where I had to stop and cry loudly at least three times because I was, for some unknown reason, terrified one of my lecturers would see me and be disappointed (a goody two shoes even in that state). TMM was very sympathetic and continued to chivvy me on, finally managing to drag me up the fire escape and into our room. It was at this stage I made the signal and he artfully slide a bowl into my outstretched arms and held my hair back as some more of the shots v. candy floss cocktail made its exit. That night, he somehow managed to be the most supportive and iron stomached boyfriend the world has ever seen; emptying the bucket on numerous occasions between stroking my head, telling me he loved me and making sure I drank as much water as possible. Eventually I passed out, star-fishing so completely that he was forced to retire to the couch and it was there he stayed until early the following morning when he got up to go and play a rugby match in front of his parents whilst I lay in my shame pit, begging friends to bring bananas, ice lollies and sympathy (I got the bananas and ice lollies, I definitely did not get the sympathy). How I managed to keep him for a further 8 years is completely beyond me, but boy am I grateful. 

Thankfully since then, I only need one hand to count the times I’ve got outrageously drunk, and most of them have involved a theme party (which we all know is a weakness of mine) or being on a yoga retreat holiday in Fuerta Ventura and making complete tits of ourselves at a beach front bar, happily plied by a bar owner who clearly thought we were hilarious and was eager to get us to try some of his homemade concoctions. 

We were classic Brits on Tour here. Shameless.

Whilst I am mildly ashamed of my ability to be such an outrageously royal lush, I do like to think that I have carried on the family tradition of being completely hilarious whilst drunk. I come from a line of legends, who have done such things as coming home so drunk they couldn’t remember going to sleep, but woke up face down, fully clothed (including sun glasses and bag) minus only their shoes, which were later found in the hallway with the laces cut all the way down the middle to make for easy escape, or being so hungover out and about that the only way they could manage the unfortunate egress of the previous night’s indulgences was by throwing up into a spare nappy (not used) belonging to their toddler. 

We might not do it often, but when we do, by God we do it hilariously. 




Mele Kalikicraftmus

I mean, I know I said all that last week about not being big into Christmas and all, but I do have to admit to getting a bit carried away this weekend. Since we’re having Mother, Robin and her boyf over to ours for the festive period (possibly the first time we’ve actually properly hosted for more than 1 person and for more than 1 evening), we decided it might actually be the time to make some effort. Previous years have seen us either not really making much effort (we always aim to have a tiny Christmas sprout) or not bothering to decorate at all. I think when you’re out living as a real life grown up but without children, the sparkle can dull a little bit and it’s a lot easier to see only the trials and tribulations (and almighty costs) instead of the joy and excitement. When you’re inviting other people though, it could possibly be considered a tad rude to force them to not celebrate the season just because you can’t be arsed with the stress. To that end, TMM and I have decided we’re going to go for it. Now, we’re not going wild, though this is mainly because we already have so much stuff and I literally do not have the time, energy on inclination to move all of my normal tat to replace it with Xmas tat. Also because I know that if I Go For It (note the use of capitalisation) and it doesn’t look like something out of Country Living December Edition (which is obviously won’t) I will lose all hope and try and bin everything. Instead, we will just go at about 65%, which will still allow us to be 50% more festive than previous years but won’t end in a stroppy ceremonial Christmas bonfire.

We have obviously (as per last week’s post) already been adopting new seasonal traditions (book flood anyone?), but we’ve also been reverting to some god old fashioned ones, which leads me nicely into our first adventure of the weekend. No matter how non-Christmassy we’re feeling, we do always agree that if a tree is to be purchased, it must be real. Previous years have found us with teeny weeny little shrubs from local garden centres (or occasional Tesco) propped up on cabinets and weighed down awkwardly by our 5 oversized baubles. This year however, TMM decided that it was time for us to go big (not childhood big, where all Christmas trees appear to be about 30 ft. tall and as wide as Santa’s waistline) but of a grown up height. He rearranged the living room to make room and dug out the flyer offering £5 off from the local Christmas Tree Farm and everything was gung ho until we realised that whilst our house and dreams were big enough to accommodate a 6 ft. tree, the new car was not. I was fully prepared to give up and go back to the little league, but TMM was not to be deterred. “I’ll just carry it!” he says, with a hearty attitude and somewhat manic look in his eye.

And Reader? Carry it he did.

Decked in our new gear (Primark jumper and new expedition coat that turns me into a member of East 17, we set off on Sunday mid morning. Now the walk from our house to the next village along typically takes me about 40 minutes (though usually because I am trudging grumpily and muttering under my breath about stupid public transport), but I do have to admit that it wasn’t quite as bad as normal with TMM’s positive attitude. Making it to the farm in record time, we turned up the drive and were met by two high viz wearing youths who smiled at us with bemused smiles, obviously concerned that we hadn’t realised we’d forgotten our car. Undeterred, we skipped merrily into the fields and started manhandling tress with gay abandon. Not being too arsed by the general look of the thing, we made our selection within about 2 minutes and TMM dragged it over to the netting machines. Much to my chagrin (and despite my offer of a whole £5 if he threw himself through it head first, which alongside being in a carwash with the windows down is one of my all time big dreams), TMM refused to net himself and instead focused on getting the tree trussed up. I think he mightily impressed one of the workers who basically just stood aside and let him do his thing with a cheery “you should get a job here”, and he had it paid for (with discount) and over his shoulder in the blink of an eye. As we departed, one of the youths from the gate broke out into a cheery smile when he realised what we intended, wishing us a very Merry Christmas and 100% convinced that we weren’t going to make it. TMM is a true hero amongst men though, and in less than 2 hours after setting out we’d made it back to base camp with only one stop to delayer. I documented the whole thing hilariously on Instagram, partly to distract myself from my own burden of the coats (which were also very heavy thank you very much) but mostly to show the world what an absolute legend he is. Nearly every car that drove past heralded either a smile or a face of disbelief and I actually think we might be village famous now #lifegoals

Side note – I would also like to point out that I did try to help, but it was decided very quickly by all parties that I was more of a hindrance than not (I ended up looking a lot like Grandpa in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; one finger on the tree and a big cheesy grin).

Once we were home (again, can I point out how it took us less than 2 hours to travel that far with baggage) it only took a few minutes of furious sawing and a quick vac (of both the pine needles on the floor and the ones that had coated TMM’s back) to get it settled. By the afternoon, it was most gloriously bedecked in all of our oversized baubles (I don’t know why we don’t buy normal sized ones), including the Oxford globe, the York bell jar and our little wooden cut outs from Prague. I am quite proud with the classic and understated approach we’ve taken to it, and TMM is happy we haven’t used tinsel (which he believes is the devil’s work). As of the time this was written, it is still upright (if leaning slightly to the left) and Bucky has remained mostly unarsed by it, except as somewhere to hide whilst he decapitates and devours the mouse population of the village (such lovely presents to find).

Whist we doing the tree however, it was pretty clear that we really don’t have enough decorations for anywhere else in the house. Our minimalist approach has left us with one box of random bits and bobs and a couple of stockings and that’s about it. Somewhat reluctant to go out and spend money on crappy plastic ones, TMM suggested we have a go at making our own. I’m all into my pom poms and origami at the moment, which gave us some ideas, and a quick google suggested salt dough could be the way forward. Now salt dough is a staple from my childhood and for anyone who’s never done IT, you’re really missing out. Super cheap and easy to make, non toxic (quite important considering how much I insisted on eating when younger), and very simple to decorate; it’s the perfect idea to keep kids and craft adults happy. All you need is 2 cups of plain flour, 1 cup of salt and enough water to bind it together and hey presto; you’ve got your dough. What more can you want? TMM suggested we make some nice little pendants using some stamps that we had, and after a slight hiccup (I couldn’t find the stamps and was fully prepared to cancel Christmas as a whole until TMM found them hiding under the couch), we were set to go. It was surprisingly easy and within the hour, we have enough bits for four garlands spelling Merry Christmas in various languages (points if you can identify them), a couple of festive animals and a big gay pendant with our initials because we are in love and also ADORABLE. 3 hours in the oven on a low heat and they were baked to perfection and we’ve been gradually tying them up as and when we’ve had time. I’ve also decided some pom pom bunting couldn’t hurt and I’m just waiting for a free evening to get a couple knocked out in seasonal colours, and I’m hoping to make some little paper trees and cranes this weekend whilst TMM finishes off the wrapping.

All in all, I don’t really think I can keep claiming the title of Grinch this year. With our early start on present shopping and decorative preparations, we’re pretty much fully immersed. All that’s left is a rendition of Santa Drives a Pickup Truck (my most fave xmas song) and a night in with White Christmas and Muppets Christmas Carol. Is this what being a functional and prepared adult in December feels like? Apparently it really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

Birds, Beasts and Unexpected Relatives

Devon Blog

Gosh, it’s been a while since we’ve been here, hasn’t it? I am a whole two weeks behind on blogging (the shame), but to be honest I’m surprised this hasn’t happened more regularly. My track record for keeping at something isn’t that great – especially when it’s self-imposed/self-motivated. However, The Neens has expressed her displeasure at my lack of blogging, and what The Neens wants goes, so I’m back on the blogging horse. It is good though, because the two weeks off has given me a little bit of material to go off and I return to you with the good wholesome quality content you like to see.

I was actually off work last week (lucky me) for the Great Pendlebury Expedition of 2018. TMM’s Mum was celebrating her birthday, and it was sneakily decided that we would take her on a surprise holiday as a family. Everything was pretty much decided early in the year and all that was left to do was to get her down there none the wiser. TMM’s dad cleverly managed to whisk her away, promising her a week of calm in Devon, and we even went to visit her the night before to take her a present and wish her a pre-emptive happy birthday aka we bald faced lied to her face which brought me out in panicked sweats. It went off without a hitch though, and Saturday morning saw 8 adults, 3 teeny tots, 3 dogs and 4 cars full of suitcases haring it down the motorway. It was supposedly planned that our journeys would be staggered so that TMM’s Mum wouldn’t know what was going on, but as always with the best laid plans of mice and men, I think it was only by the skin of our teeth that we avoided bumping into them,

The main body of the convoy met at Gloucester services at sparrow fart in the morning (TMM got me up and in the car by about 6am and let me tell you, I was grouchy). We got to the services about half an hour before anyone else and had a nice little breakfast and a wander round the absolutely beautiful farm shop (everything in their is glorious and outrageously expensive, so of course we bought tons). Just as we were finishing up, TMM’s sister arrived with her husband, little one, sizable baby bump and 2 dogs and then by the time they’d got themselves sorted, TMM’s brother, wife and 2 little ones had arrived and we all had a quick catch up before heading off again.

We did our best Italian Job impression down the motorway (TMM got a bit overexcited and was referred to as a “boy racer” more than once – especially hilarious considering it has previously been stated he is a grandma driver) and pulled up at the allocated meeting point of the beach car park with time to spare. Whilst everyone bundled up, a pair of binoculars were handed round and we scrutinised every unsuspecting couple on the beach below. What I had imagined would be a short jaunt to the bay and then a slow motion run into ach other’s arms actually turned out to be a bit of a Monty Python sketch when it turned out the beach was a lot longer than anticipated and en masse we approached numerous people who turned out not to be the droids we were looking for. There was even a mild concern someone was going to report us for just stalking random people. Eventually though, the collies were released and hared up the shoreline to our prize. As we slowly made our way along, dragging children who were far more interested in digging, TMM’s Mum realised who we were and boke down into fits of totes emosh tears. This in turn made me tear up a little (this woman beat breast cancer with nary a tear shed, yet was clearly affected by her family) and then there was a mass hugging session and a lot high pitched chattering.

The week itself was full of delightful beach walks (though I do have to admit to being a grump because boy was it cold), board games and a lightening speed trip to Exeter in which TMM and I somehow managed to spend about £100 in ten minutes. I do have to admit to struggling slightly with the early mornings (the bedrooms were all on the bottom floor and the living area directly above them, and tiny children appear to have the body mass index of Indian elephants), and proved myself to be the laziest person there by getting up after every one else every single day. To be honest though, nobody else really had a choice because they had children, but still.

It became very clear as well that I have very much of a Victorian mind set when it comes to children – they are lovely to see but when they cry it makes my butt clench. Now don’t get me wrong, I love those little critters to bits; their giggles sound like angel choirs, their tiny grabby hands make my insides warm and freshly washed adorably curly baby hair could probably solve all of life’s woes, but my God, when they cry! It’s like the siren for the end of days – just the most heartbreakingly devastated wail that vibrates down to the bone. I mean, honestly, what have they even got to cry about? They don’t have to work, they are actively encouraged to take naps and they can literally shit themselves and somebody will clean it up. (As pointed out to me, you don’t know true parenting until you’ve cheered at someone else pooping). I’d give my left arm to be in their tiny and sensibly velcroed shoes. This holiday has made it abundantly clear though that I am meant to one of life’s cool aunts. I will swan into their lives, dispensing timely wisdom and an unhealthy amount of sugary goods, and once they are over excited and hoped up on e-numbers, I will give them back and return to my blessedly silent cats and long lie ins.

edna.png

We watched The Incredible 2 whilst away and it was abundantly clear to all that I am Edna; charmed by children but best kept separate from them. Also, tell me that isn’t me in my Velma costume.

Instead, I am on the noble and valiant quest of trying to convince TMM that we need a bearded dragon. The lady who had put us up in one of her beautiful barn conversions also had an absolute menagerie and invited guests to help with the morning feeding round. We descended on the first morning at 10am sharp to help feed her 4 alpacas, 2 donkeys, 1 fully grown cune cune pig (called Tom) 3 piglets, 2 geese, 10 guinea pigs, 1 rabbit, 7000 brightly coloured birds and a multitude of chickens, ducks and turkeys (called Nigella and Paxo). We were followed on our rounds by a rather loud-mouthed guinea fowl and also got to have a stroke of a bearded dragon called Fluffy and tortoise called Shelley. I was understandably overwhelmed with animal fuelled joy and should really be applauded for not elbowing the children out of the way more regularly. After narrowing it down though (alpacas and donkeys being too big for out current abode), I’ve decided a reptile is my only available avenue. (I have previously tried for bees, pygmy goats and birds, but TMM has sensibly pointed out that living in rented accommodation with a cat is not really the best environment for any of those). I have helpfully been pricing up costs and allocating sections of our house for the dragon, much to TMM’s chagrin, and am hoping to have a new member of little family early in the new year.

Overall, I think it can be classed as a success though, and I do hope TMM’s mother enjoyed herself as much as she deserved to. Now that’s done though, it’s all about the downhill scramble to Christmas, so prepare for some festively panicked ramblings over the next few weeks…

Misery: Seeking Company for Long Walks and Getting Caught in the Rain

Blog Misery

It’s gonna start off as a bit of a shit one this week, folks. For those of you who are feeling resolutely cheerful and would like to remain so, or those who are already feeling fragile and would prefer not to be nudged over the edge, you may be excused.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post focused around my mental state, and to be honest that’s been quite a good thing really. It’s much easier to talk and write and think about other things when you’re healthy and happy. Sadness only seems to breed more sadness; and along with that comes a general lethargy, a general unwillingness to do anything other than spiral downwards and the ability to only talk about how bad you feel with an unhealthily narcissistic intensity. I’ve been Sad (with a capital S) for about 2 weeks on and off now and it’s been a right old muddle of all of the above.

This time of year always heralds a general ennui and underlying feelings of melancholy for me. The change in the weather; the encroaching dark nights, the sharp winds that get in down your coat collar, the rain that seems to find it’s way under your umbrella and through your hood to dribble down the back of your neck – I truly hate it. Now don’t get me wrong,  because I love the Instagram side of Autumn just as much as the next millennial. Long walks in piles of russet coloured leaves and long sleeved thick woollen jumpers wrapped around steaming mugs of hot chocolate; that I some good shit, but it’s hardly an every day occurrence is it? The all over greyness and malaise finds me ebbing lower and lower, hunching further in to myself in a paltry effort to hibernate and hide from it all.

Unfortunately though, this turn in the seasons coincided rather succinctly with a whole miasma of other things; a perfect storm of unique and ultimately bullshit events all coming together to screw me over. Whilst each one might have been okay on their own, having all of them at once has succeeded in just tipping me over the edge.

Sadly a few weeks ago I lost something very precious. Although it was completely accidental and there was no blame to attribute, it threw me. It was something rather minor in the grand scheme of things; not expensive or useful, but it was something I’d taken completely for granted and it’s loss rippled outwards in seismic waves of despondency, affecting TMM quite strongly as well. Stupidly it left us struggling to sleep, and as most of us know, the night is dark and full of terrors. Lying in the dark without distraction meant I found myself falling back into old and particularly unhelpful habits. Hurtful, insidious thoughts started slithering in, picking on things that I’d been successfully ignoring or hadn’t realised were even affecting me. All the dark and nasty fears that are normally boxed away start clambering out of the mental woodwork and it becomes so much harder to push them away.

It’s scary how easy it is to slip and it’s incredibly unfair, especially considering how difficult it can be to drag yourself back up.

The problem is once you find yourself in a state like that, other things start piling up and situations that don’t register as problems when you’re happy and healthy suddenly become insurmountable barriers. I’ve found myself struggling at work a lot recently; letting things affect me in ways perhaps they wouldn’t have a month a go. As it’s gotten busier and busier I’ve lost the ability to navigate my way though and instead of just getting on with it, I’ve found myself bursting into tears at my desk (which annoys me more than anything so god knows how everyone else felt about it) and getting unaccountably worked up and frustrated about things. Admittedly, there are parts of it that are just shit, but I would like to believe I am better at coping than this usually. I’ve been mean to TMM as well, struggling to rein in my cruel childlike tendencies that always seem to reveal themselves when I’m depressed. It’s as though because I’m hurting, I’ve got this need to make others hurt too; to appreciate my pain through suffering of their own.

However, as dramatic as this all sounds, it’s not as doom and gloom as it could be. In times gone by I would have sunk down, deeper and deeper into this quagmire of self-pitying despair, not recognising or reacting to the problem in favour of just letting it overwhelm me. I would have ignored any helpful advice, spitefully choosing to wallow in my suffering because I thought I was a victim and deserved to be treated as such. In my older, and hopefully more worldly way though, I can decide not to do this. It sounds almost stupidly simple, but as so readily pointed out by the various mental health professionals I’ve seen over the years, I am able to help myself. Recognising this for what it is; as a symptom of an illness rather than some kind of built in flaw, and understanding that whilst it sucks, it is not forever, is something I am able to do. Sure it’s hard and I can quite resolutely affirm that it will not always be a walk in the park, but at least it’s easier than it used to be.

Weirdly enough, Russel Brand actually kick started this for me, which surprised me just as much as I’m sure it surprises you. He popped up on my Instagram feed and typically I would have just ignored him – I have opposing views on him depending on the time of day, phase of the moon and style of his hair, but something caught my attention. He was very simply talking about 5 points of self care; just 5 little suggestions he had for looking after yourself on a daily basis, and something about them chimed in me. The more I watched him speak; talking in a gentle, unassuming manner offering some simple principles about how to look after yourself, the more I felt it resonate and I felt almost bowled over by how obvious it all was. It lead me to wonder a little about what self-care principles I could put in place for myself; what aspects of general living I found myself eschewing or ignoring when I get like this and it was surprisingly easy to pinpoint.

  1. See People. As much as I moan about people and having to speak with others on a general day to day basis, I cannot deny that I am human. There is an innate requirement in us to seek out physical, mental and emotional relationships with others and we thrive off social support. Whilst I might have introvertive tendencies and very much require time on my own to recharge, I often feel better having spent time in someone’s company other than my own. People always seems to have much better advice than I expect, and are a lot more willing to be forgiving and understanding than I give them credit for.
  2. Eat, Regularly. Whenever I am feeling particularly low; my appetite seems to match my mood and it becomes too easy to skip meals altogether. Any grumbling in my stomach becomes mere background noise and sometimes the need for self-punishment is most easily abated by denying myself anything of substance. Being aware enough to stop myself before this thought solidifies, and get up to make a sandwich or a smoothie is something which is painfully simple, but can possibly have one of the most positive effects.
  3. Letting Go. Anger is something that always seems to come hand in hand with my low periods, be it at myself or others. I am an annoyingly proud person who is dangerously prone to spite and it is a combination which makes for bitter thoughts and unnecessary meanness. I still don’t think I’m quite cured enough to be able to let go of this for good, but at least being aware of my irrationality and trying to separate myself goes a long way on the road to betterment.

I get that this week’s post has been a bit of a drag, and I haven’t even got any pictures this week to break it up, but it’s felt good to get it off my chest. Mental health problems are no longer as taboo as they once were, and being able to talk about them so openly and without fear of judgment is a help in and of itself. So I hope I haven’t bummed you out too much and I promise next week I  will talk of nicer things.

 

 

Holiday Blues and Writing Cues

Hol Blog

I’m not going to lie to you Readers, it’s been bloody hard going trying to blog this week. Even now, I can’t promise that it’s going to be a particularly good one, or even if it’s going to make it past 500 words. It appears that whilst there is a way, there is definitely a distinct lack of will.

I do want to state right now though, that this dirge in writing is not for lack of content – indeed you’ll be glad to know we Whitby-ed hard. We ventured far and wide, and our disgustingly early start (for which we in the back of the car complained about HARD) paid off and meant that we had chance to visit the absolutely stunning abbey before most people were even up. We were able to take many hilarious photos of us carefully (read – idiotically) re-enacting scenes from Dracula (I made an excellent Lucy), and TMM (ever the true professional) had even brought his nice new copy with him for some lovely moody shots.

I mean, just look at the artistry! TMM is really wasted where he is.

We also enjoyed a truly hysterical affair in the £4 Dracula experience on the main street. I feel like we should have been made more aware of what to expect, but to be honest the rather shapeless Gary Oldman puppet in the window and the particularly un-arsed man with a scruffy band t-shirt and unkempt facial hair didn’t promise much. Within 5 minutes however, Wilson was practically underneath Jonbles t-shirt and all of us had let out the odd exclamation (except for perhaps TMM, who was tucked at the back of the queue (missing out on most of the story much to his chagrin) and rather at home in the horror strewn décor – Angry Boy (TM) at heart that he is). The animatronic powered curtain covered puppet that flew out, or the man dressed as a wolf (unsure tbh) who was clearly enjoying himself hiding round corners proved to be a little startling, especially for the young women and her daughter who kept running to hide behind us whist screeching unattractively. My favourite bit though, was when we were all crammed into the section depicting Dracula (or a melted looking plastic scarecrow mask with a awkward hair in a dressing gown) rising from the coffin and Wilson turned slightly and proceeded to let out a splitting cry only to follow it with “oh, it’s only TMM”. Apparently his looming figure loitering in the background pushed her over the edge and poor Jonbles arm probably still has little half moon nail marks in it. The sweet little ale pub we all crowded into after (with added taxidermy foxes and portraits of dogs in army regalia) for a swift one was definitely the balm we needed to calm our nerves.

By this point, we were all a bit hot and over-emotional so we retreated to the car to get our cases and take them to the cottage. TMM was the perfect gentleman and took all the wheelie cases (the cobbles were making me laugh to hard too actually do anything) and after a few back and forths, we eventually located our spot and were able to collapse on the couches for a breather and a glass of cider. Our first evening culminated in a visit to a couple of nice gin bars and a superb fish and chips (battered black pudding is definitely a new thing that I am All About).

The next day saw us adventure even further afield, after stopping to pick up TMM a new fisherman’s smock which was possibly the only thing that could have complimented his dungarees so perfectly. Indeed, there were parts when he paused to stare artfully out across the marina and we were all struck at how suited he was to his environment. I always knew I’d marry a sailor.

It’s a shame that none of us could open our eyes in that second photo, but at least we look happy enough. At that point anyway…

Once suited and booted, we walked to Robin Hood’s Bay along the coastal path. I think it is fair to say that there were massively varying levels of enthusiasm about this, though TMM once again showed his true gentlemanly nature by saving Wilson for certain death in a rocky stream and escorting her down some of the more tricky hills. (Woo pointed out here that she expected a while essay about how sh*t walking is so she is pleased by my polite reference to my dislike here. She thinks I secretly love it. I do not).

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Have you seen a cuter couple? They look like they’re off for an early afternoon constitutional.

In the Bay itself, we stopped for a  truly superb lunch (so much grilled cheese and white bread was imbibed) and a few cuppas. The journey back was slightly easier, especially for TMM, Wilson and I, who decided to get the bus back so we could veg on the couch with cups of tea and watch Monsters vs. Aliens. We (read TMM) made ourselves useful though in stopping at the local Coop to pick up the makings of a homemade fish pie and having tea ready to go whist Woo and Jonbles braved the return route on their own. It was best for all really, as it meant that Wilson and I were in far better spirits by the time we were beckoned to a close by bar to meet the returning heroes. We spent a little while enjoying watching the various Steampunk aficionados that were wandering about in full regalia and drinking happily before returning home to our pjs and TMM’s truly spectacular tea. Like true grannies on tour, we were all safely tucked up with blankets and wine by 9pm, and spent the rest of our evening being pulled and pummelled by Woo, who used her not inconsidarably strong pointy fingers to massage away any knots and draw forth some truly ridiculous noises. At one point, she basically played Wilson like a human piano. By the end of it though, we were all slightly more tender and aware of our faults (I apparently have a ridiculous hard knot in my lower back that has been affectionately christened “The Butt Marble” and TMM has an appointment to visit Ann – the official back lady – because we are mildly concerned his spine is all out of whack) and ready for our two tubs of super fancy ice cream.

Our final days bloomed with a rather unnecessary downpour and after a sturdy fry up and a stop for a couple of books (it’s not a holiday without them) and a lovely pair of jet earrings for yours truly, we all bustled back into Juan (Woo’s car) and started for home. Whilst it took a little longer than we could have hoped, and there was a mild fear of vomming from at least two members of the party, we made it back in one piece.

(Admittedly, I do also have to admit the snapchats sent from my particularly disgruntled work pals who were thoroughly not enjoying their day only served to make the whole experience that much better – #soznotsoz)

Well, at least I can say I made it past 500 words, though I can’t say if any of them are particularly thrilling. We enjoyed ourselves (please see below images for further reference) and I can only hope those reading this got some fraction of amusement too.

 

 

And We All Live Apacaly Ever After

Alpaca Blog

So as some of you may have seen on my Facebook or Instagram, I spent the weekend living my best life and enjoying my birthday present from Woo. Woo is what we would class as “good people”; she puts up with my consistent and often hysterical emails, endless hearty bants and works well within the dreaded birthday constraints of “no stuff” when dealing with potential presents. I am very troublesome when it comes to giving people suggestions of what I want for my birthday. When I was younger, I would prepare colour coded lists in triplicate that went to all family members to provide clear guidelines on what I wanted. These days, I merely shrug and ask specifically for “no stuff” because I am a hoarder and must be controlled. Woo understands that my life in a constant battle between wanting All of the Things (like a true millennial), whilst simultaneously wanting to live like a Buddhist monk and free myself from the fetters of the material world. Last Christmas, she got me a trip to the Manchester Cat Café (that came with a hand drawn card which still sits on the mantle piece) and a pot of hair dye because she gets me. For my birthday this year, she succeeded once again in pulling it out of the bag (along with matching card) and this Sunday found us in the Lake District walking Alpacas.

Now let me tell you straight that walking with Alpacas might be the closest thing on this earth to true happiness and anyone who thinks otherwise is clearly deranged.

There were 5 of us that went, crammed into the new little motor (still as yet unnamed) and chipper at the prospect of the fun that awaited – little did we know how much joy we would experience. The company itself – Alpacaly Ever After (and whoever came up with that name deserves a medal) is based in the grounds of the Lingholm Estate in Derwentwater, Keswick. It is a gorgeous setting; coincidentally the Summer home of Beatrix Potter during her formative years as well as the home of where the new Swallows and Amazons film. It is basically the dictionary definition of “idyllic” and 100% the kind of place Alpacas deserve to live.

We arrived and went straight to the café (because we know what we’re about and what we’re about is fancy café lunches) before wandering the kitchen gardens that inspired many of Beatrix Potter’s tales and all getting slightly emotional that we weren’t posh ladies from the turn of the century. Soon though, the time came and we stood, all shifty like, by the statue of a giant and slightly mental looking red squirrel whilst waiting for our contact. Turns out, arranging Alpaca dates is somewhat similar to spy meetings – who knew?

Anyway, Shelley, our very knowledge and super smiley guide, appeared in a timely fashion and led us to our delightfully cuddly charges. She carefully explained the stroking etiquette – due to their eye positioning, they have a blind spot (unsurprising with those fringes if I’m honest) and like most animals don’t like being stroked where they can’t see. This meant their heads and backs were out of bounds, and also that there should be no butt touchings, which is just good manners really. Mainly she advised we stick to their necks when petting, but considering the length of them, this wasn’t too much of a hardship.

Whilst she was talking, she corralled our various partners and harnessed them up and we dithered about with thinly veiled excitement. By the time the gates opened and the Alpacas were led out, we were a undoubtedly overcome.

Now Jonbles had no Alpaca because he is a boring old fart, but he came along for the ride anyway and admitted later (no matter how much he tries to deny it now) that he wished he’d had one too. The rest of us picked (or were picked by) the four Alpacas who were milling about giving us the side eye – and the whole process was somewhat reminiscent of the wands in Harry Potter; the Alpaca picks the walker, not the other way around.

Woo went first because she is by far the bravest, and was paired with Kato; a big bubble headed beastie who was pretty much the agreed leader and enjoyed having a good chatter the whole way round.

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I followed and was paired with Jasper, who had fabulous hair, a casual attitude and the ability to wee for about half an hour non-stop (we matched perfectly). Shelley explained that there are actually only 2 breeds of Alpaca; Suri and Huacaya. Huacaya are by far the most prevalent, making up approximately 90% of the Alpaca population, and whilst they were lucky enough to have Jasper, he is the Loneliest Suri. The only one in their herd, he stands out a little and after being unfortunately snipped in the trouser snake department, is destined to stay that way. Still, he was The Most Chill and we bonded beautifully (read I pawed him desperately and he snuffled me a little and posed wonderfully for selfies).

     

Wilson “The Honey Badger” was paired with Jake, a toothy gentleman who knew exactly what he was about and wasn’t prepared to be moved unless he was ready. He viewed the whole excursion as a sort of extended buffet selection.

    

Finally, an executive decision was made that TMM should be left with little Theo, who whilst looking like a baby and being 2 years old, was pretty much fully grown. They looked like a kind of comedy duo (think Shrek and Donkey but much prettier) but they bonded beautifully (possibly over their matching eye lashes) and I’m pretty sure might have actually been each other’s spirit animals.

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During the walk itself, in which we were lead around the grounds and, in turn, had much fun shepherding our companions around, our very lovely guide educated us about the Alpacas as well as the land the company resides on. Obviously I was in nerd heaven because we all know how much I enjoy fun learning – and learning with Alpacas in the most fun. For example, did you know Alpacas are bred specifically for their fibre, unlike Llamas who are working animals and can be used to carry up to 10 stone. Sadly this meant I couldn’t throw myself on Jaspers back and gallop off into the sunset as I had hoped, but a girl can dream.

We also learnt that they “hum” when talking to each other (Kato had a lot to say), only have one row of teeth (along the bottom) so no accidental dismemberment of which there was a slight fear, and only actually spit when distressed, but let’s face it – who doesn’t? They’re also incredibly graceful considering how silly the look, and surprised us all by taking the various sets if stairs we came across in their stride (ha ha).

Within the hour though, I can safely say that each if us had fallen head over heels with our charges and once we had taken them back and given them some snacks, were all heartbroken to have to walk away. I’m not ashamed to say I could have wept as Jasper non committedly bumped his head against my arm before scratching his belly with a back hoof and trotted off without a backwards glance. I know our love was a fleeting and possibly one sided affair, but I can’t help but hope that as I’m writing this, he still thinks of me now and then.

It was obviously a bit too much for some people…