Tuesday, 13 April 2010

From Designer shoes to Muddy Boots

I loved my flat in London - it was zone 1 and I could get cigarettes and a decent bottle of red at any time day or night. It was Victorian but its high ceilings were a perfect backdrop to my contemporary commissions - and as a curator in a contemporary craft gallery I had great assess to some great artists and designers. I could go out wearing my Parisian pink stetson or my electric blue leopard print trilby and appear stylish but unremarkable.

Then came the relationship - first the cigarettes went (blame that on the theatre - but that is a whole different story) then I - gasp - started to plan to to have the occasional night in. After a while I realised I had a problem - I had serious jaw ache. On closer consideration of my symptoms I realised that I had not stopped grinning for weeks - I was terminally happy.

I was an independent career woman with friends, a flat and a credit card and a relationship was not going to change me. But, my father was terminally ill and working for a gallery was not helping me support my Mum, with long hours and constant the private views in evenings and weekends. So, I had a great idea - why not do and MA. So, two weeks after the decision was made I was still working and enrolling onto a full time course in Arts Criticism.

So now the career was on hold and the independence was slipping away too. 'I will' soon became 'I do' and my happy ever after was waiting. Meanwhile, Matt's work gave us an offer we could not refuse. It was basically redundancy or be paid handsomely to move to Reading.

He brought home the Reading property pages and nonchalantly suggested I take a look. I scoured the thick tome, the only variant on the homes seemed to be the price as they all looked the same and I had no idea as to why one should cost more than another. I had passed Reading on the M4 but there my local knowledge stopped. Hidden amongst the endless smart, but dull, new houses was one tiny cottage that called out to me: 'buy me, or I will be bulldozed'. After one whole day of house hunting we put in the offer. True, it was not every one's cup of tea - the estate agent almost put on rubber gloves to get through the front door and she was assiduously careful not to brush against the walls for fear of contamination.

A few weeks later we were the proud owners of a tiny seventeenth century cottage. It was pretty but with no heating, hot water or inside loo or any other creature comforts that may have crept in during the twentieth century. Even walking up stairs was a hazard - the old lead electric wiring was short circuiting and if you stepped on certain stairs it would cause the hall light to flicker on.

As I ploughed on with my dissertation, however, the cottage offered a sanctuary away from my London social life. The worst distraction was a dove who sat atop of the chimney cooing and her call was amplified as it echoed down into my room.

Then we got the first of our animals and I was totally and contentedly trapped. I was getting used to stoking up a Rayburn all day for a few inches of bath water. I survived by using my imagination - I remembered a wonderful holiday on a croft in western Ireland and if I wallowed in the historical romance I could cope with the day to day trials .

Rather than rushing headlong into renovations we slowly, researching historical homes. Slowly we brought our faded beauty of a home back from the brink. I can no longer get away with the extravagant hats, but I do admire them as I pull on my muddy boots and beany when go to walk the dog. However, I have every intention of growing old disgracefully, to in a few years time when I am going grey I'll dye my hair bright blue, embarrass the kids, pick up those hats again and go out in style!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

A Strange 40th Birthday...

It started off so well, Sarita scrambled into bed early in the morning not clutching her customary teddy but a card that she had made for me then slept with so that she could give it to me first thing.

Next came a wonderful breakfast and presents (it was year of the silly but BRILLIANT handbag), and loads of lovely messages with friends calling me from around the world - then the day could begin...and my birthday end?

We decided to go up onto the Moor and I booked a pub for lunch - and all was well until a volley of strange comments and oversights. Sarita and I were playing and chatting when my Mum, the Mumster, told us to be quiet (from a lady who renders telephones unnecessary for all but long distance?). So we were quickly moved on and on and on.

As tension rises so does the humour. Sarita takes after her Dad and has the perfect comic timing - as were were crammed in the back of the car, lunch lurching inside us we went on and on and on. 'Up and down, up and down I don't think that Granny knows where we are going, Up and down over the hill....up and down.' Only Sarita could have highlighted the farce so well until the only audible signs were of the Mumster's grinding teeth and our muffled giggles.

Muffled titters turned into full on classroom giggles as the Mumster tried to be relaxed 'I don't mind where I drive - Richard will tell me where to go.' Er, we had just picked up Uncle Richard from the station he had stood up on a crowded train for two hours, he was doing a passable nodding dog impersonation and would have been happy to have been anywhere provided he did not have to contribute to any decisions - so the car sick, the toddler and the birthday girl were over ruled.

We did finally get a cafe - and after a few minutes we were on the move...NO! It was my birthday and I would finish my tea if I wanted to. If absolutely pushed I can out-strop the stroppy. We sat in stunned silence as I overruled the Mumster and finished my tea.

The journey back home was in a similar vein - with the giggles getting more hysterical as the Mumster's attempts at polite conversation misfired and every time resulted in low level insults about my intelligence, plans for my home and general outlook.

I did discover that Birthdays were important, as while mine was being ignored I was being detailed on how to organise the Mumster's 70th next year. Hubby was by now incensed as truly nothing had been organised or was going to be pulled from out of magical hat to acknowledge my 40th - and I was just totally perplexed.

The Mumster is not a nasty person, she has issues about the place of children. They best seen (in photos) and never heard. We even have to take all of Sarita's suppers to here house as she does not seem to find the need to feed children seriously - but then she once 'kindly' offered me a pot of unopened creme fraiche four months after the best before date as she bought it and did not like the stuff - so my catering for Sarita is probably for the best under the food hygiene circumstances.

Just as I sat down to write this I got a cheery phone call from her asking if I was upset with her. When I explained that she ignored my 40th, she did acknowledge (again cheerily) that yes, she had missed it but that so much was going on.

We have a second birthday planned to make up for the first misfire - the Mumster is just that, a complex misfiring blend of outrageous optimism, insensitivity and general surprise - like a human foot in mouth of a parent. There is nothing that I can do about her, I should not be surprised at my great age. There is a myth that if you can't beat them then join them - well that is bullshit. But, I can do my best to ensure that Sarita never writes a similar blog about me - you see I love her unconditionally, for all that she says and all that she does - in busy times and in quite, in pubs and at home.

I love being a Mum and I feel if the Mumster had ever allowed herself the time to explore motherhood and what it has to offer she may have discovered the real rewards, but that is her journey - but just don't expect me to take that journey over the Moor, post 'birthday' lunch, with her ever again!