I’m back, baby, and emotionally unstable 😂😭😂😭

It’s been a long time now since I put pen to paper, for anything other than marking, writing shopping lists or adding another social commitment to the calendar. Which explains my long absence. ‘Real life’ has had me in its grip for too long, and this morning I am breaking free. I am forcing myself to ignore that overdue pile of marking (ugh) and its accompanying ball of anxiety in my stomach. It can wait. After all, I am part time now (though it doesn’t often feel like it) and I have to keep reminding myself of this. I went part time for a few important reasons, and lately I’ve been losing sight of them.

It’s been quite a hard couple of months, and emotionally I feel a bit all over the place. I went to two funerals in the space of a month; both old women who lived next door to us growing up, and who meant a lot to us, and to our own kids. One of them, in particular, I loved. She was in her nineties, which is obviously a great innings, and that’s just life, of course, but it was hard nonetheless. I was also pretty ill over October half term – just a bad cold, but it zapped my energy, and I feel like its after effects are still out staying their welcome. I’ve always felt slightly smug about my strong immune system, but it’s been letting me down recently, and I’ve learnt that I don’t deal very well with illness. I get even needier and more emotional than when I’m healthy; essentially becoming a blubbering, gluey- eyed snotbag in my darkest hours.

More than anything else, work has been pretty relentless. It turns out that even three days of teaching, especially at the sort of school I’m now working in, is harder than I’d envisaged. I found myself on the brink of tears in a lesson, for the first time since my NQT year, on Tuesday. The kids are tough, I’m knackered, and my resilience is worn fairly thin at the moment. I swear they can sense it, like sharks sensing blood and going in for the kill. Thankfully I managed to blink them back until lunchtime, when I momentarily locked myself in my room for a quick cry.  I stood and cried in what I thought was a blindspot in the corner, before I realised that anyone further up the corridor would still be able to see me through the glass walls. Anyway, it was an improvement on the lesson I’d walked out on during my (bloody tough) NQT year, to stand sobbing in the English office whilst simultaneously shovelling pieces of doughnut, passed to me by my sympathetic mentor, into my face. So that’s progress, of a sort.

On the plus side, I have also had some hugely rewarding moments since starting at my new school. I feel like I’m *making a difference* to some kids, in a way that I similarly haven’t felt in years. At the risk of sounding like one of those DfE Get Into Teaching adverts (don’t, for the love of God), the euphoria that you feel when you witness a child’s pride in something you have helped them to achieve is magic, and shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s just that, for the most part, those moments are vastly outweighed by all the bullshit you have to wade through as a teacher. It’s an emotional rollercoaster of a job, and one that I often find myself looking for an escape from; especially at this point in the year.

Anyway, this was not intended to become one long whinge about teaching. Everyone I know has the misfortune to have to listen to enough of that. (Joe offers well meaning advice such as ‘maybe you need to try and manage your time better’ or ‘maybe you could do more work on your days in school, so it doesn’t spill over.’ This, rather than making me feel better, usually has more of a red rag/ bull effect. Teacher friends will sympathise). What it is intended to be, is a reflection on the importance of self care, in all its many forms.

There’s a woman at my work who, like lots of other people I’ve worked with, cannot allow herself a life outside teaching. A few times now I have asked about her weekend, only for her to respond gloomily that she didn’t have one because she worked through it. I remember her guilty excitement a few weeks ago, when she confided that she was giving herself a Saturday afternoon off to go to a knitting workshop. God forbid that this woman, who is a grandmother in her fifties, should put down her purple pen and pick up some knitting needles for an entire afternoon. Part of me admires this level of dedication to her work and her classes, but a greater part of me thinks she is – though lovely and selfless – a bloody fool for allowing the job to take over like that.

This has never been me, and God willing, it never will be. Maybe I’m too selfish for that to happen, but, if that’s the case, then I’m glad, because some things are just more important than becoming a martyr for your job. Sanity, for instance. Relationships, and happiness, and having the space to think about other things. I dreamed about work last night, having been there for ten hours yesterday, and still not got everything I needed to done. And when that happens, instead of trying to plough on and get it all done, I know it’s time to take a step back.

As a side note, there is a public perception (which I may currently be reinforcing) of teachers as a load of part-timers, who spend all of their time feeling aggrieved about having to work hours that non-teachers can only dream of. Well firstly, this is a load of shit, but secondly, I don’t think this is just a problem with teaching – it’s a problem with our society. We place so much emphasis on career and financial success, and this inevitably comes at the detriment of our happiness and mental health. I know this is nothing new or groundbreaking – it is being talked about all the time now – but as far as I can see, little is actually being done about it.

So, for now, I’m trying to focus on self care. That looks different depending on what day it is and what mood I’m in. It can be as simple as poached eggs and fresh coffee on my mornings off (it’s often food related). As I’ve been under the weather, I’ve been justifying enormous bars of Dairy Milk as self care, too – then the whole palm oil controversy happened and somewhat spoiled my fun. But on Wednesday I put down the chocolate and dragged myself off my rapidly expanding arse, and out for a run, something I’ve not done in far too long. When I manage it, I’m always amazed by how it instantly and unfailingly lifts my spirits (and then makes me feel like I’m dying, and then, once it’s over, makes me feel great again). This is something I’ll try to remember as winter settles in for the long haul. The times I least feel like running are usually the times I need it the most.

Yesterday, after a late meeting followed by another meeting followed by a hideous journey home, self care looked, again, like chocolate (and cheap red wine). Today it looks like eggs and coffee, and sitting on the sofa, braless in my scruffy old pyjamas at lunchtime (a titillating image, I know), writing this. I think this has been by far my most self-indulgent post, but surely we all need a bit of self-indulgence now and again. And it’s felt good to get back to the blog.

I wrote in my first post that writing is therapeutic for me. I actually had a little cry at one point whilst writing this (told you I was emotional). It often feels like there are not enough hours in the day, but this is another thing I need to force myself to make time for. We owe it to ourselves to find time for the things (and the people) that ground us, the things and the people that make us happy. I’ll try not to stay away so long next time.

Love in the time of the internet 💕💕

I met my boyfriend on Tinder. I wish we had a better story to tell people – one that didn’t involve swiping through endless virtual faces to find ones we thought were at least reasonably attractive – but there you go. (For the record, I think my boyfriend is very attractive, bloody gorgeous in fact). And actually, even from the complete vacuum of romance and spontaneity that is internet dating, I still find myself wondering sometimes at the serendipity involved. I mean, yes, I had set the parameters of my search for love ridiculously wide, having basically discounted every male in the vicinity – and by vicinity I do mean my entire city. And no, it’s not a small city. I’m no stranger to the depressing experience of having swiped left to the point where you’re finally left with the ‘no more available matches’ message looking apologetically and somewhat awkwardly back at you. But still, we happened across each other’s profiles. I swiped right, he swiped right. And here we are, two and a half years later, living happily (90% of the time) with my daughter and an accidental pet cat, and talking about buying our first home.

His first message made me laugh out loud. A real life LOL is a rarity in the world of Tinder, let me tell you. Or at least, a LOL where you’re laughing with them is a rarity. And the ones where you’re laughing at them are usually tinged with despair, so they don’t count. He has since confessed that he had some help with that message, and in all likelihood he probably sent it to fifty other girls, but still. It was a refreshing change from ‘hey u ok’ (or even the slightly more daring ‘want to sit on my face?’ No thanks). We met up and it went well. We got very drunk, setting a precedent for much of our relationship together so far, and stayed out until 4am, at which point we said goodbye and went our separate ways. Very good, I told myself, he thinks I am A Lady. (As a side note, predictive text just wanted to insert the word ‘feminist’ instead of ‘lady’ there – let’s just say my iPad knows me better than he did on that first date. I have personally always thought that the ‘rules’ about how long a woman should wait before sleeping with someone are utter sexist bollocks. I went into dating, after splitting from Eva’s dad, naively confident that 21st century men would feel the same; unfortunately, many of them appear stuck in the 1950s when it comes to female sexuality. That said, even I know it is not a good idea to take a man up on the aforementioned offer of sitting on his face if it is the first thing he says to you. Manners cost nothing).

Anyway, date two followed a week later. We got equally drunk, having discovered a mutual love of mojitos, and this time when 4am rolled around he suggested going back to mine. I started panicking, trying through the fog of rum to weigh up the benefits of following ‘the Rules,’ against the benefits of getting him back to my bed. Self control has never been a personal strong point, so even whilst I was telling him ‘okay, but I’m not having sex with you,’ I don’t think either of us was falling for it. Thankfully, he turned out to share my scepticism for the three date rule, and the fact we’d jumped the gun, so to speak, made no difference to him. He seemed pretty happy about it, on reflection.

We carried on seeing each other, about once a week. He seemed both normal and keen, a somewhat unsettling combination that I was completely unused to. He’d text me regularly, but not too regularly, and after each date he’d make it clear he wanted to see me again. I fancied him (a lot), he made me laugh, listened to me and made me feel good about myself. It was everything I’d waited for.

Simultaneously though, I was crippled by insecurity about the whole thing, absolutely convinced that it was all too good to be true, and that any day now he was going to start the all too familiar process of removing himself from my life, piece by piece. I felt like I needed validation from him all the time, evidence that this was going somewhere real, somewhere beyond the three or four month, sort-of-but-not-quite-relationships I was used to. I was trying to be laid back about it all, to relax and enjoy it, and sometimes I did. That was easier when we were together. But too often, and especially when I wasn’t with him, I felt like some sort of deranged and obsessive film noir ex- detective who can’t let go of a case, trying to piece together clues about where it was going, how much he liked me and, as time went on, when he was going to drop the L- bomb.

Why not just be open and ask him outright, I hear you ask? Well, that would seem like the logical thing to do, but being the anxious and insecure mess that I was, that felt like the most terrifying option imaginable. I was far too preoccupied with trying to appear attractively breezy and casual to consider broaching a frank and honest conversation about what we both wanted – God forbid. The only time we came close to anything resembling one of those was after we’d both drunk so much alcohol that I couldn’t remember what he’d said the next morning anyway. Not very helpful.

When we actually did finally use the word ‘love’, the conversation turned into an absolute farce. I’d dropped a (pretty heavy) hint – again, after a few drinks; as you can see, I wasn’t joking about the drinking precedent having been well and truly set on date one – and he was clearly pleased and started asking jokey questions about how I felt. I then lost my nerve and tried to shut down the conversation; I was determined not to say it first in case it wasn’t reciprocal. He misinterpreted this as me not feeling what he was feeling and went very silent and moody. The whole joyful experience ended with me sobbing and telling him that, obviously, I did love him and him telling me he loved me too (yay!) and calling me a silly bugger. This, said in his lovely broad Yorkshire accent, is his affectionate and amazingly patient response to most of my emotionally unstable episodes, of which there have been a fair few.

The trouble is, dating feels like such a bloody emotional battle. I think this is especially the case when you’re a single parent, and probably more so a young single parent, like I was. You’re keenly aware that to most single young men, another man’s child is not high on their agenda of things to occupy their time with. But I’ve seen friends without children – beautiful, smart, charismatic friends – in the same position. You go on dates with people you could never imagine yourself with, smile (and drink) through them, and breathe a huge sigh of relief when you can leave and make up some excuse about why you can’t ever see them again. Or you go on dates with people who you really could see yourself with, but then you get the message, like a little kick to the heart through your phone. Or you don’t get the message, and have to figure it out for yourself. Or, more likely, the texting just becomes very sporadic and you get the distinct impression you are being kept as one of a few available options. Worst of all, you have a three or four month sort-of-but-not-really-relationship, just long enough to get your hopes up that it could be something good, with someone who was really keen in the beginning but then gives you some clichéd reason why they don’t see you in their future. This is usually accompanied in my experience by assurances, designed (mistakenly) to make you feel a bit better and probably to alleviate some guilt, that you are ‘honestly one of the most amazing girls they’ve ever met.’ Hmm, sure. And none of this, over a number of years, leaves you with any workable amount of conviction in your own self worth. So when somebody genuine comes along, your emotional guard is up, you feel like words are generally meaningless, and you’re preparing yourself, from day one, to be let down.

Thankfully, I’m not in that place anymore. Thankfully, he was patient enough (and loved me enough, I’m reminding myself to add) to put up with my silly bugger antics, and he is still here. He moved cities for me, as he sometimes reminds me if I am having a silly bugger moment, and questioning his commitment. I feel finally happy and settled, and mostly secure, and a huge part of that is down to him. And that means everything.

Tinder has a bad rep. It’s not romantic, it is used for casual sex, and there are many, many freaks and perverts using it. I had a ‘complex’ relationship with it myself, deleting and reinstalling it on a number of occasions. But it has well and truly earned a special little place in my heart since the 29th of May 2016 💕

Postscript: along with booze, an inordinate number of curries have also been the cement in our relationship. Many thanks to our local takeaways 😘 and many thanks Ruth for pointing this out ❤️

Just a Girl 💪🏼

Last Friday night my mum and dad met my boyfriend’s family for the first time, at a David Bowie tribute night. We’d got his mum tickets for her 60th, and as my mum is a die-hard fan we thought it was the perfect opportunity for an introduction. We knew they’d probably get on, especially encouraged by a mutual love of booze and Bowie, but I still felt a bit apprehensive about it all. As it turned out, everyone got wasted and had a great night, and glowing reports were given all round.

As we stood at the bar waiting for my parents to arrive, I noticed a woman I recognised sitting at a table facing me. She was my old sociology teacher from sixth form; a woman I’d had huge amounts of respect for, but also been somewhat terrified of. She didn’t take any shit whatsoever – turn up late for the lesson or without your textbook, and you were told swiftly and in no uncertain terms where to go. Being naturally a disorganised fuckwit (everyone I know can attest to this), this happened to me on a number of occasions, until I was sufficiently humiliated by the experience that I (sort of) got my act together. For her lessons at least.

Anyway, I knew I had to go and talk to her, but the public humiliation memories must still have been reasonably fresh, because I also knew I needed a couple of drinks first. So a couple of beers down, I weaved my way over to her and tapped her  arm. When she turned round I greeted her with a ‘hello’ and an awkward grin – ‘Hi Miss’ doesn’t really work eleven years after you’ve left school. She looked a bit nonplussed, and then recognised me, and we chatted. She asked what I was doing – I said teaching – she asked why, with that sardonic expression I remembered so well – I said lack of imagination. And then, and fully aware of the cliche of it, I told her how bloody inspirational I’d found her lessons. And it wasn’t just the alcohol talking. She introduced me to politics in a way that made them relevant and totally fascinating. Her passion when she talked about Marxist and Feminist theory was contagious, and whilst I couldn’t honestly describe myself as politically astute (my knowledge of current affairs is basic, to say the least), those lessons definitely spoke to me about the workings of society. Politics around issues like class, gender, ethnicity and sexuality continue to fascinate me.

A disclaimer: I am opinionated. There’s no escaping that fact. Sometimes (and especially when I’m drinking, which is fairly regularly) I can get going on a discussion, and it can be hard to shut me up, even if I’m not that well informed about whatever I’m ranting about. I’ll admit I have been known to invent the occasional statistic. I think this opinionated-ness is a bit of a family trait; though perhaps one that I exhibit more than the rest. So maybe I could do with reining it in sometimes, but there are some things that are just worth defending, even to the point that everyone else around you just wants you to shut the fuck up.

Earlier on meet-the-parents Friday, I’d been talking to a woman I really like and have a lot of time for. Feminism had come up in conversation, in the context of another woman we both know buying her newborn an ‘I ❤️ Feminism’ baby-gro. We were sitting in a group, and as this information was shared there was a general groan/ eye roll, and consensus that this was going ‘too far.’ At this point I piped up that I would probably have bought the same baby-gro when Eva was tiny, to which the reaction was pretty incredulous. It included ‘Are you saying you’d go around with unshaven armpits?’ Well no, that wasn’t what I was saying, but it was an incredibly telling – if slightly bizarre – conclusion she’d jumped to. (Incidentally, I would love to be brave enough to chuck my razor in the bin and never bother with trying to maintain a state of hairlessness again – unfortunately I’m not, and I think my boyfriend would have quite a lot to say about it if I was. As if men know how it feels having to cope with the levels of self- maintenance we face every day… anyway, I digress).

For a long time, the desire of some women to distance themselves from feminism has been something I’ve found both baffling and depressing. The word ‘Feminazi’ (which I’ve even heard being thrown around by thirteen year olds in schools I’ve worked in) is, in itself, enough to make my blood boil. The stereotype of a feminist as a butch, hairy, angry man-hater just seems so laughably outdated – and yet, if it’s the first thing my intelligent friend thinks of when she hears the word ‘feminism’, then it’s clearly persistent. To me, this stereotype is an all too convenient put down, used to make feminism appear as unappealing as possible. If women are socialised, from their first pink baby-gro, baby dolly or Barbie doll, into fixed ideas about femininity being soft, shiny, polished (and hairless), then this stereotype is a great way of keeping any potentially  rebellious females in line. Do you want to end up looking like Miss Trunchbull? Do you want to repulse or frighten away any potential boyfriends? Die single, bitter and surrounded by cats? No? Better keep those radical notions about equality to yourself then.

I’m (slightly) exaggerating here. The flip- side of the coin is that new generations are being educated about this stuff in a way mine wasn’t – save for the interventions of the occasional inspiring sociology teacher. There is a general cultural movement in our society in the direction of recognising and celebrating the achievements of women – see my insta post as evidence of this – as well as hearing their voices and listening to their experiences, as #metoo proved. There are numerous advertising campaigns that engage with debates around gender and sexuality – my inner Marxist feels somewhat conflicted about this. But it’s undeniable that the media exposes us to a diverse range of identities and experiences that have previously been hidden, or at best, marginalised. Campaigns like ‘This Girl Can’ and the current Always ‘End Period Poverty’ raise awareness and aspirations for girls and young women, and this has got to be a positive.  And we’ve got to keep going in this direction.

This is why the old ‘eye roll and sigh’ routine winds me up so much in response to feminism. Last year I found myself drawn into an online argument with a stranger – for the first time ever – on this topic. A mutual FB friend had shared an article entitled ‘I’m a woman, and I’m so over feminism.’ A memorable line was the infuriatingly smug assertion: ‘feminists, we’re ok now, relax!’ I’d argue that whilst the President of the United States believes it’s acceptable to talk about women like they are his personal playthings, whilst the gender pay gap exists to such a marked extent (or at all), whilst only one in ten reported rapes are brought to trial, it is definitely not yet time for feminists to ‘relax.’ Anyway, this man began throwing the word ‘feminazi’ around like there was no tomorrow, and assuring me that I had the definition of a feminist all wrong. A feminist, he patiently corrected me, isn’t simply someone who wants equality for women; perhaps in my head that’s what feminism is about (I could almost feel him shaking his head in wonder at my poor naive idiocy through the screen) but in real life, feminism has been hijacked by a load of complete fucking mentalists who think they are superior to men and just want any excuse to get naked and covered in paint, so they can shout about their mental views. Silly me. The absolute irony of his assumption that his (male) view on feminism was the right one was obviously completely lost on him.

But of course, it’s more than just words that rile us up. It’s looking around at the places you’ve worked, and recognising that almost all of the people at the top are men. Especially when some of those men earn an inordinate amount of money and apparently do fuck all. It’s being heckled and harassed in the street and in bars, and then given abuse when you stand up for yourself – called a sket and a slag and a bitch. It’s checking yourself when you feel a fleeting gratitude, amongst the pervading feeling of shock, when the father of your child finally says he will have her on a Saturday night. It’s being ignored, or not taken seriously, because you have a vagina. I want none of the above for my daughter, and so I will continue to encourage her blossoming interest in feminism. She needs to go into the adult world with an understanding of what she’s up against.

One last word of defence, then: feminism isn’t about how hairy your pits are, it’s about choice, freedom and having the opportunity to fulfil your potential as a human being. To devalue feminism is to devalue the efforts of countless women who have fought and even died to get us to the point we’re at today. Not equal, not yet… but moving forwards.

Spreading the love ❤️

It’s taking me longer than I’d like to write this next post. This is officially now attempt number three; number one was a load of random thoughts that wouldn’t come together in any coherent form, whilst number two was a ridiculously negative outpouring about trying to balance teaching and parenting – I’m going to come back to that one and see what I can do with it. But for now, I’m feeling sentimental, and I want to spread some love. Apologies in advance if it all just gets too much to handle.

We’re in London this weekend; one of my favourite places to visit, and Eva’s too – second only to Florida, which she has been completely obsessed with ever since a family holiday there last year. It was her birthday on Wednesday, and I’m now the slightly bewildered parent of a 10 year old.  She decided that this year, instead of a party, she wanted to visit her Auntie and Uncle (and her adoptive Aunties and Uncles, of which there are many) in the big smoke. So far our weekend has included a trip to the Natural History Museum, Kidzania (a ‘city’ built for kids, where they can try their hand at lots of different jobs – I watched her participate, with some slight trepidation, in a liver transplant on a rubber dummy…) and a BBQ at one of my best friends’ house this evening.

I’m writing this lying on my sister’s sofa, where I’m sleeping tonight. I’m lying here on my  front, absolutely stuffed full of food and wine, and reflecting, by no means for the first time, on how bloody lucky my daughter and I are to have the family and friends we do. A message one of my friends wrote in her card really touched me tonight – she told my daughter how wonderful it is to grow up with her. When I think back over the last decade, I have to agree.

Having a baby at nineteen is no walk in the park. When I found out, at eighteen, that I was pregnant, my first response was to burst into tears, my second to demand a cigarette from my then boyfriend, and my third was to call my best friend (the same one whose BBQ we went to tonight), who lived ten minutes’ walk from my parents. We traipsed across the field to her mum’s house, where we sat with her and her then boyfriend in a fairly stunned silence, drinking beer which I promptly threw back up. Yes, I was young and stupid. I don’t remember much about the visit – I think they probably both did a pretty good job of trying to lighten the mood – but I do remember needing to go to her for support, and her giving it unreservedly.

The next morning, arriving home from my boyfriend’s house (having vommed about three more times in the night) I shakily told my mum the news. She looked dutifully disappointed and called me a stupid girl; I went to my room and felt incredibly sorry for myself. About half an hour later I went down to the kitchen, where my mum was making toast and smiling to herself. As I entered she looked up at me and said simply ‘I’m going to be a granny!’ This was the start of her relationship with Eva, as the most loving, endlessly generous grandma you could imagine. We lived with her for the first six and a half years of Eva’s life, and she may as well have been another parent to my daughter during some of that time. She helped me enormously; both to achieve at university and professionally, and to continue to have a personal life. During times when I was really unhappy – and at times I was really, really unhappy – she picked up my slack with my little girl. I will always be so incredibly grateful to her for doing this so completely without judgment.

Living at home was hard, though. I resented her at times; I felt inadequate as a parent, in her shadow. We were treading on each other’s toes and generally pissing each other off, and our relationship suffered quite badly. I moved the two of us out, and in with a friend and her own daughter, and we began to slowly repair the damage. It is only with hindsight that I can 100% appreciate everything she did for us. Everything she continues to do. She is an incredible woman, and I’m so lucky she’s my mum.

When my sister fell pregnant during her second year of university in London (yep, for intelligent girls we have bugger all grasp of birth control), my mum was similarly, hugely, supportive. My sister returned home, living with us at my parents’ house and commuting to London a day a week so she could finish her degree at UCL. My mum played another big role in looking after my niece, and the girls spent those vital early years of their childhood absolutely smothered in love. Eva was completely besotted with her ‘little cuz’ from day one, and she is similarly adored in return (though you wouldn’t always know it – little cuz is fiery to say the least). Her mum, the sister closest in age to me, is another inspirational woman. Again, endlessly generous, even whilst dealing with her own shit. She is unbelievably strong – I always find it funny how much I look up to her, despite the fact that I’m the oldest. She is also one of the most hilarious people I have the good fortune to know, let alone be related to.

Then there’s my youngest sister. Staying with her this weekend has been great. We don’t talk enough, because life just does that to you when you’re adults and you live in different cities. Another hilarious and inspirational woman – and I don’t even care if you’re getting bored of reading this. (Please stick with me though…) My youngest sister really did grow up with Eva – I still don’t think she’s completely forgiven me for stealing her thunder by announcing my pregnancy, to the whole family, on her fourteenth birthday. As such, she’s the cool, fun, cheeky Auntie, who it’s aaalways a treat to see. Watching Eva run towards her in Camden, where she was waiting to meet us, made my heart hurt.

I can’t move on without mentioning my dad and my little brother. Jesus, it’s turning into an Oscars acceptance speech. They’re hilarious, annoying, love to take the piss out of everyone and everything, and I couldn’t do without either of them. I’m well aware that I’ve caused my dad no small amount of stress over the years – lots of it financial. I dread to think where I’d be if it wasn’t for his support. Probably in a grotty little flat somewhere, wishing I was anywhere else. When I think of how different our lives could have been, I am overwhelmed by gratitude.

I’m starting to worry that I’m going to put anyone off ever reading anything I write again – it won’t all be so sentimental, I promise. But, to go back to the inspiration for this post, one last tribute must go to my wonderful friends. You have supported me more than you probably know over the last ten years. You have welcomed Eva, and loved her. That was so clear tonight, as it is every time we’re with you – you are the wider family we are both so lucky to have. We love you.

 

 

What I Know

I have always wanted to write. Ever since I can remember, my answer to the standard ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ has been the same: writer. Aged six, my mum helped me to seal up and post off my first literary masterpiece; an emotional tour de force about the adventures of two hedgehogs who lost their way in the park after dark, but, thankfully, made it home in time for tea. Unfortunately, the publishers didn’t really ‘get’ me or the art I was trying to create, and so I encountered the first hurdle on my journey towards literary greatness. Despite this early setback, I continued to write; mainly hard hitting stories about infant animals who faced some sort of difficulty (‘The Koala Who Couldn’t Climb Trees’ was the eagerly awaited sequel to the aforementioned ‘Harry and Holly go to the Park’), but who unfailingly made it home in time for tea. Those were simpler times, and little Grace appreciated the reassuring satisfaction of a predictably happy ending. 

And then, as I got older, the writing fizzled. I kept a diary for a while, which I would go through intermittent phases of filling with pre-teen angst. The resulting musings are so cringeworthy that I still have a hard time reading them; it feels like a peculiar form of self torture. Still, I can’t bring myself to throw them away. In my late teens, through an intense and all- consuming relationship, and then through an unplanned pregnancy, I would sometimes splurge my thoughts onto paper, finding it therapeutic and reassuring. Whilst I was writing, I could still believe that one day I might fulfil my childhood ambitions. 

Then came my daughter. I was nineteen and on a supposed ‘gap year’, deciding what the hell to do next. I deferred my place at uni, and the next year began a degree in English Lit, closely followed by a PGCE. As any parent, teacher, or human being with any common sense might appreciate, none of this left much time for writing. And so I stopped. And it all began to seem further away, out of reach, entirely unlikely. 

And yet… how do you know, if you never try? This is a sentiment I have been reflecting on a lot, lately. Perhaps it is to do with the fact that my twenties are rapidly reaching their demise, or perhaps it is the fact that my daughter is a decade old in less than a week’s time. Time’s ephemerality feels more apparent than ever.

So here I am. It is the summer holidays, and I recently quit my full time teaching post in favour of part time hours (alongside some tutoring, to bolster my finances). Time is, for once, on my side. But picking up that pen is bloody daunting…

Self belief has never been my forté. I doubt my imagination, my intelligence, my ideas. Have I got anything interesting to write about? Will anyone give even the smallest of fucks about what I have to say? Will it all just sound like self- indulgent rambling? Who the hell knows. But there’s only one way to find out. And what to write about? Well, I’m following that old, well worn advice to write what you know. So, making every effort to be unapologetically open and true to myself, here I go.