All posts by Natalie

There is GIN in engine – Week One of Mum Solo*

Well this has been quite a week.

On the up

Feeling strong, capable and confident.  I actually felt like a grown up this week (and I rather liked it!).  Being mum solo*  was really quite empowering.  The kids were great, we got to school on time every  day AND without forgetting anything (except Nina’s French book on Monday).    It was a little strange at first but I soon got into the swing of things.

My babysitter.  She was put to good use this week as Harry and I had tickets to see the mind -bendingly, jaw-droppingly brilliant Derren Brown at the Grand Theatre in Leeds on Tuesday.   Followed by my sister and I having tickets for Franz Ferdinand at the O2 Academy on Wednesday.  They were equally as brilliant, fast, funky, fabulous beats and infectious, sexy lyrics.  We loved it and danced all night.   My babysitter says she is happy to work as she wants shoes.. at this rate she is going the next Imelda Marcos!

Nina’s spellings.  She got 7 out of 8 this week, which I thought was a staggeringly good result when she had to learn Stephenson and Trevithick amongst others.  I can’t even pronounce Trevithick!  She thought that Brunel was funny as it had “Bru” as in brew, “Like last week mummy, there was Gin in engine”  Honestly I don’t know where she gets it from!

My friends.  Thank you so much for all the amazing words and messages of support after last week’s blog.  I was really rather overwhelmed.  Plus I had friends looking after H&N on the strike day (thank you Angie), for parents evening on Thursday (thank you Sonja) and picking up from Ukulele and gymnastics (thank you so much Ian and Sarah).  I really really couldn’t manage without you and I am very grateful!

And on the down.

Sunday evenings.  I have only got used to Paul being back in the house and he is off again.  These weekends are not long enough.  Who ever made up the 5 day work 2 day off rule needs a serious talking to.  What were they thinking?

Margaritas.   Move over tequila there is a new  party spirit in town.  Cachaca a rum made from Sugarcane juice  and is the main ingredient in Caipirinhas, the Brazilian national drink.  My neighbour makes a mean one as I discovered last night at our Baby Group 12 year reunion.  Caipirinhas roughly translated means Country Bumpkin which is a bit how I felt this morning.

Hangovers on Mothers Day. See above.  Although being woken up by the sound of  grumpy preteen boy wrapping your present and throwing it at you makes for an original start to the day!

So all in all a great week, now just to do it all again next week.  Highlights to look forward include taking the kids on a night out with (my) school raising funds for the minibus appeal (by eating curry, this is my kind of charity work!), and the end of term Key Stage 1 disco with the dreaded Easter Bonnet competition.  Nina swears the exact same hat has won every year for the past three years. So any ideas for a competition winning headgear will be gratefully received.   Oh and then there is small matter of breaking up for the holidays on Friday.  Bring it on!

*Monday to Fridays


Mum Solo

Paul has just left. For his first week in Nottingham. Of course it is fabulous that he has another job and one that segue-ways so neatly from his previous one. (Actually last week was manic as the two overlapped). Especially after my last blog finally admitted just how terrified I was about his impending redundancy.

I am going to try and chronicle the trails and tribulations of being Mum Solo during the week. Being mum and dad Monday to Friday to a son in high school and a daughter in primary school whilst holding down a full time job. I am sure there were will be some amazing benefits but right now I wasn’t expecting to feel so sad. Even Nina who is not one given to showing any sort of affection to a member of her family (if you imagine the behaviour of a very aloof cat you might get some idea) came out to wave her dad off into the night unbidden.

I am going to try and take each day as it comes. Not to allow these feelings of terror to overwhelm me. I remind myself that I really can do this and try not to think too much about how empty the house feels. For a man of few words I am surprised how silent things feel right now. I will let you know how many times I accidently make him a cup of tea this week.



We all can

We all can


It is fair to say I have been a bit in the doldrums recently, hence the lack of bloggage. Overworked, underpaid, with a husband about to lose his job. I had overspent AND overeaten at Christmas, and the lack of pounds in my purse combined with the extra pounds round my waist were weighing on me heavily.    Life had turned into an eternal, infernal Groundhog Day of getting up, making packed lunches, going to work, coming home again, making dinner, helping the kids with their homework and finally collapsing into bed exhausted to do it all again the next day.  Even a trip to the cinema to see 12 Years a Slave left me traumatised the next day such was was the brutality depicted on the screen.  Plus I had had a article published in a magazine.  This should be a moment of great joy, but I haven’t been commissioned for a second piece, so the bad feelings of rejection have greatly overtaken the ones of satisfaction of achieving a goal.  For the first time since starting my blog I really wondered if  I should ever put pen to paper again.  On top of all this my mother-in-law has been suffering from an acute attack of mental illness due to anxiety.  I have been powerless to help, and knowing she is feeling so bad doesn’t make you feel too good about yourself either.

So yes I was feeling very sorry for myself.  Worrying about the future, especially about money, the future  felt doomed.  A massive black hole with an unavoidable event horizon.  An empty bank account which would lead to a loss of home.    I have been driving my work colleagues crazy I was being such a misery, but I really couldn’t see anything to look forward to.  My sister is getting married in April and all I could think is how the hell are we going to afford the hotel room if Paul doesn’t have a job?

By Tuesday night I was at my wits end.  Paul had been given his finishing date, the end of March.  A long, laborious task at work was proving to be even longer and more laborious  than cleaning Buckingham Palace from top to bottom with a toothbrush, by yourself in a day.  With an impossible time deadline I was feeling more dispirited than the Russian responsible for the fifth snowflake misfunction at the Sochi Opening Ceremony must have felt when they looked at the media coverage for the event.  You know you have work load issues when you are worried about how little time you have left until the weekend on Tuesday don’t you!

A good night’s sleep helped, so did the team talk with myself.  Best foot forward I thought.  Little did I know I was about to walk into a life changing experience as I travelled down the corridor  to have my lunch.

I work in a school and our Year 10s were having an extra special assembly with a motivational speaker.  I was following the stragglers and just asked if I could listen during my lunchtime.  It is on these seemingly inconsequential moments our lives pivot isn’t it?

The speaker was Richard McCann.  A wiry ginger shot of adrenaline and positivity.  He held the  240 odd teenagers in his spell with his story.  Just before his 6th birthday he was the youngest child of the Yorkshire Ripper’s first victim.  It was only a twist of fate that stopped him and his sister discovering her brutally attacked body.  His life before and after that event hadn’t been a picnic either, in foster homes, on the at risk register, physically abused by his “feckless orge” of a father (Social Services description at the time).  A man who drown the family pet in bath when the dog was annoying him.  Richard, understandably grew into angry young man and his life took the familiar path of destruction including a spell in prison before he found his way.

At school an English teacher had spotted his talent for communication and got him to entry a speaking competition.  As Richard said he had never don’t this before, but he thought well why don’t I have a go.  I can do it.  He said it was that first ray of positivity in his life that a boy in second hand clothes, a boy who had to endure the comments and curiosities of the playground about who he was and who his mother had been, could stand up in front of the class, and not only speak but win the competition.

He realised that something good can come out of everything.  Because of his experiences he helps other victims’ families to overcome of the pain of losing their cherished ones in horrorific circumstances.  That even being the child whose mother was murdered by a serial killer can be a gift because you can use that experience to help others.

The cliche is that your eureka moments are like a thunderbolt hitting you.  I can confirm this to be no cliche.  It was like my whole being was cleaved in two I thought about the magnitude of that statement.  If this man can turn the most unimaginably horrendous events around in his life, I can bloody well cope with my lot.    You can do anything you want to do with the right attitude.  You overcome anything life throws at you with a positive outlook.  All at once I could feel energy rising in me, I felt the ability to deal with all my (seemingly very minor ) problems.

I went home buzzing and excitedly explained to the family  how we lived in a Can Do house.  Everything seemed so much easier, opportunities seemed to spring up waiting to be delved into.  At school the next day students were in a similar frame of mind. Inspired to achieve.   Instantly I wanted to write again because I felt I had something of value to say.

It is very hard to convey just how powerful Richard’s speech is.   I urge you to read one of his books and if you ever get the chance to hear him speak seize it with both hands.   He is  speaking again in Leeds on 6th June, I think it is too good an opportunity to anyone to miss.





As the final treat of the Christmas Holidays I took my 12 year old son and my 7 year old daughter to see the new Disney animation Frozen.

The trailer gave no clues to the story, the comical snowman and the hungry reindeer competing for the carrot over a frozen lake.  However did transpire was a sumptuous piece of animation.  The story of two sisters, Elsa and Anna, princesses living in a far away kingdom, who had to deal with the devastating side effects of  the elder girl, Elsa’s powers.  With the merely touch of her fingers she was able to conjure up snow and ice.  The trouble was she was unable control it and after a playful game getting out of hand, little Anna was nearly killed.  The parents’ way of preventing this ever happening again was to keep  the girls safe by isolating them from the world and each other

The story then evolved into a quest for one girl’s love and devotion to save her sister from a life of misunderstanding and loneliness.

It was great to watch a Disney film with two strong female main characters, and although there was much talk of the redemptive qualities of an act of true love, the denouement was not a romantic act (I will say no more in case you haven’t seen it).  I applaud Disney for continuing to debunk the damsel in distress myth.  That all a girl needs for a happy ever after is to marry her Prince.  It probably takes quite a bit of pressure off the boys too!

I knew that the film was loosely based on the Hans Christian Anderson tale The Snow Queen, and as I loved his stories as a child, even though I was unfamiliar with this one, I thought it would make a great bed time story for my daughter that evening.

As we read together the story of the Kai and Gerda it was instantly apparent the film bore scant resemblance to Mr Anderson’s story.  In his, the Snow Queen was shadowy malignant figure that entranced Peter and led him away.  She was more like a wicked female Jack Frost.  I could see parallels to the spirit characters of folklore and I could see that C S Lewis’ White Witch borne many of her icy hallmarks, enticing Edmund with her glacial stare and her Turkish Delight.

The story was much less sentimental, much less feel good,  a fairy tale with a darker seam. I know this is nothing new from Cinderella to The Little Mermaid, modern versions of fairytales have been revised and sanitised .  Every edition made happy and brighter as not to alarm and frighten children.

When I first visited Amsterdam I left with two deep impressions, (apart from the beauty of the Van Gogh Museum and the horror of the Anne Frank house, and of course just how all the canals look alike in the dark.. I digress).  We walked along the red light district and I saw the girls in the windows, ordinary women, not tanned, not super fit, not beautiful and definitely not sexy in my view of sexy.  All I could think is why don’t they look like Julia Roberts in Pretty Women? I mean to my 20 something self that is what a sex worker looked like.    The tart with a heart of gold.  A long  way further down the canal I realised that it is Hollywood who is painting the false picture.  The women who are selling their bodies for sex do not have the wherewithal or the resources for even the most basic health and beauty regimes.

The next day I was in the Dutch equivalent of Habitat, it might even have been Habitat.  It was desirable interiors a-go-go and like in Habitat there was a section for those cool toys that are featured in weekend supplements, but you never see in children’s arms.  What I did notice that all the cuddly toys were bears and such like and they all had teeth and claws.  Albeit felt ones but they were still there.  That they hadn’t been airbrushed out of existence.  That children grew up knowing these animals, even in the soft toy form, were able to hunt and kill.

What is the cost to our children to all this lightening up of stories?  In a sentence that will probably make Nigel Farage spit out his pint, is the European way the right one?  Have we protected our children so much from the bad things in life we have made the world look unrealistically cosy, too friendly and perfect?   A world they will not be able to replicate in adulthood, ultimately leading to a life of disappointments as they try to live up to the fairytale.   In protecting their childhoods from any darkness have we damaged them by not realistically preparing them for how the world really is?  Mostly wonderful but inevitably  with bumps and swerves in the road that have to be endured and survived.  That no one can rescue you but yourself.  Frozen went some way to getting the message to our daughters but in these hyperpink worlds we are creating for them to live in, there is still much more work to be done.


A tale of two cabbies


They say you can guarantee only two things in life, death and taxes, but I would offer a third; that your train will only be running on time if you are running out of time to get there and I was Wildeanly careless and in that situation twice in under 24 hours.

Friday night, car 13 came and picked me up from work.  I was agitated and nervous that the rush-hour traffic would be a severe impediment  to catching my train.  The minicab firm assured me they had sent their best driver, that I had left enough time.  I reiterated my destination and the urgency of the situation as I got into the car.

We sent off at a snail’s pace, and then, horror of horrors, car 13 turned left.  I was convinced that turning right would have been the quickest, most direct route.    My stomach was in knots, mentally  I was forcing  that acccelator down to the floor.  But car 13 seemed to be much more content to chat away, and in the first 5 minutes of the journey he seemed to spend more time with his head turned looking at me than at the road.

I closed my eyes, breathed out and thought some floaty serene thoughts.  Car 13 interrupted.

“How tall are you?”

“Excuse me?”

“How tall are you?”

Well that is some ice breaker I thought.  “5 foot 6 and a half”

“Your shoes make you look taller.”

No argument from me there, they were heels.

“How old are you?”

Now this is a question I normally avoid, mainly I think because I am in denial.  “46”

“Really?” Cue a very long turn around and a good study of my face, he must have been very practised at staying on the road.

“You look much younger”

Wow this guy is really going all out for his tip.

Modesty prevents me for detailing the next part of the conversation, let’s just say he was being very complimentary whilst going the long way around to the station, and not troubling the speedometre past 20 miles an hour.    I lifted up my arm in a very exaggerated fashion and stared very pointedly at my watch.

“My parents were always told the same thing” I said.  “I would have gone down Roundhay Road”

“Roundhay Road, no no, this way good.  Your parents, good looking?

“Errm,  mmm I guess so, it has been mentioned by some”

In the next ten minutes, somehow Car 13 then had my full family history, hatches, matches and dispatches even divorces.  I must have been anxious.  Once the conversation got going he didin’t turn round as much, but didn’t get any faster.  We approached Sheepscar Junction, I held my breath, would he do the City Loop, longer but potentially less traffic, or onto the inner ring road, more direct but currently masquarading as a car park.

He indicated…and made his move.  We were throught the lights and City Loop bound.  At last Car 13 and I were on the same route.  I looked at my driver.  He was, he had told me 6 years older than me.  In traditional Asian dress, he had a open face, brown and lined , yet it looked soft.   Weather beaten by the years to a smooth brown pebble fringed with a neat even white beard from ear to ear.

“I love my wife” as we sauntered along.

“That is nice”

“Oh yes I love my wife, she is small in stature,  a great cook, and I love my wife”

Thinking he knew all my history I asked how did they meet.

“What did we eat?”

I asked again.

“How did you meet?”

Car 13 shook his head “I know what you are asking!” As we edged into the final tunnel before the station.  “I love my wife, I have 4 wonderful children” he told me their careers, pharmacist, solicitor, studying bio-chemistry at University and the youngest, a shelf stacker in Asda.  “The thing is he is clever to talk to but just doesn’t wanna study you know”.   I could just imagine, the baby of the family, the apple of everyone’s eye, with the gift of the gab and no desire for books, especially when so much achievement had gone before him.  I had sympathies.

We inched through the tunnel.

“My father was very good friends with my wife’s husband.    We met when she was 19 and I was 23”

“You had an arranged marriage?”

“Oh yes, but I love my wife and she is perfect for me.  I have never loved another woman”

“What was like when you first met?  Where were you? What did you think?”

It might have been the sound of the exhaust emissions echoing around the tunnel, Car 13 might have misheard me, he definitely misunderstood me.

“She was 19 and I was 23, I was her first and she was my first, and I have never been with another woman.  I love my wife so much”.

I thought about this, we hear so much negativity about arranged marriages, and of course forced marriages are abominable, unthinkably cruel and abusive, but it was so lovely to meet someone even as fleetingly this as this, who had good experiences.  That the fates and their parents had achieved something good.  I thought about the western equivalent, the whole head over heels falling in love with someone you meet by chance and hoping that a decision you make, when you are suffering what is basically a psychotic episode, will be permanent.  Really on paper it is a no-brainer.

Deep in thought I didn’t notice car 13 pulled up outside the station.  With 20 minutes to spare. It had been like magic carpet ride with a side order of sociology.  I thanked car 13, it had been a pleasure to be driven by him, and as I waited for my platform  to be annouced, I thought well that was the stressful part of my journey over.

How wrong could I be?

Fast forward to 12.25 pm next day, Tower Bridge, feeling sick sick sick.  The Northern Line was down, I had missed my minicab, this was careless on a Earnest scale.  I had to get that train.  I had a hot date with 3 Doctors in the evening.  I scanned the horizon.  Nothing.  There were knots on my stomach knots.  Finally a yellow light.  Gone in seconds to a stick figure further down the road.  I cursed them.  Panic on a wine wuzzy head is not recommended.   And then another yellow light illuminated and headed my way.

The black cab squealed a halt.  “Kings Cross please” The doors clicked.  I was in,

I looked at the clock in the cab.

“I need to get there by 1? Do you think I will make it?”

“We should do, that time” he nodded his head up the display currently at 12.32 “is a couple of minutes fast”.

We were north of the river, the sun was shining  I closed my eyes again and took an enormous deep breath and sent up a silent prayer to the God of taxi drivers.  Please.

“You gonna away for the weekend?”

“No back home actually”

There then followed a conversation about how London has changed since I lived there, for the better.  More alive, vibrant, embracing the future not stuck in the past.  This lead to   Boris’ announcement the previous day  to shut tube ticket offices and how 24 hour weekend services would affect my cabbie’s business.  He was confident people would still like to driven home  and not share the underground with a bunch of Saturday night pissheads.  I could see his point.

“I’m from Stratford meself”  ‘Cept I’ve moved out, we all ‘ave.  When I go back there is no one there any more from my past.  They’ve all gone now”

It was at this point I realised I might not have enough money for my fare.  Sick and double sick.

“Umm.  Can I pay the fare with my card”

“Well you can but me machine takes a few minutes to warm up.  Do you want stop at a cash point?”

Oh God.  Just why.  just why I have done this to myself again.  “Er yes please”

We drove on to Angel.  I tried to remember the order of the stations on the Northern Line from London Bridge to Kings Cross.  Where on that list was Angel.  Was I close enough? I opened my purse and leafed through the receipts and counted my change.

“I used to work at BT.  32 years.  And we still meet every 1 December in Smithsfield Market in the pub at 6.00 am in the morning.  It’s an unwritten rule that everyone just shows up.  Every year.”   I imagined my ex- colleagues doing that.  We would have to meet up in the Broadgate Colony in Bishopsgate.  There probably wouldn’t  be enough cheap white wine in the City.    As a colleague once rather pointedly asked “Natalie do you buy your wine by the taste or the volume”.     But I loved the idea of a unwritten reunion.  No social media, no texts, no letters.  Just show up and see.  I wished I thought of it.

Then there it was, a forgotten fiver, nestled between a Sainsburys Brand Match coupon and a petrol receipt.   God knows how long it had been there, probably a hurried present from relative squashing  it into Nina’s hand as they said goodbye.

“I can see the roof of the station”

Relief washed over me.

“I have £19.00, just dump me when when the metre hits it, I am sorry I won’t have any money for a tip.

“Don’t be daft.. I’ll take you to the station my girl.    When I said goodbye to my niece and nephew in Australia I burst into tears”

“Goodbyes can be tough”

“God I don’t know why I told you that” he said ” Sorry”

“It’s ok” I replied.  And I marveled at how confessional both journeys had been.

Again we arrived at the station with minutes to spare.  The fare was over.  He didn’t want to take more than £15.  “Don’t leave yourself short, get a drink on the train”

“No, no please take this” I pressed the rest of my change into his hand.  “Thank you so much” and with that I was out and heading to the station and his next fare was in the car.

As I boarded the train to Leeds, I re-ran my brief encounters.  Two completely different men.  One a first generation immigrant minicab driver living in the North with his arranged marriage, and the second a born and bred Londoner driving that iconic black cab around the capital.  Yet both had shown me a  window into their world that I don’t think I will ever forget, and they both got me there on time.  You can’t really ask for more.


Title Contender

These might be up there for my favourite opening credits ever, witty and so tongue in cheek.  All the old corny cliches for sex, the train going into the tunnel, the champagne popping , the fireworks, they are all there.  The Neon Bingo sign makes me laugh out loud every time.

But what comes after is one of the best, well-written, well- acted dramas I have seen in a long while.  The period styling of the mid 60s puts it on a par with Mad Men and the story they are telling is electrifying.  Masters of Sex (Channel 4 10.00 pm Tuesday) is about the pioneering scientific studies done by Masters and Johnson in the human sexual response.

It is how they then weave the individual stories of the characters to illuminate the research are breath-taking, every issue from the time is there, from the right of a woman to be able to control her own fertility to how homosexuality was still considered deviant behaviour.  A central theme is how does an intelligent woman make her mark in the world and still manage to be a mother.  A theme that still chimes today.  And last week’s episode debunking Freud’s infantile views on female sexuality should be taught as a masterclass in screenwriting classes everywhere.

Michael Sheen is wonderful as the very buttoned up academic Bill Masters and Lizzie Caplan lights up the screen as Virginia Johnson.  If you haven’t tried it already, give it a whirl, I promise it will leave you gasping for more.



This is genius.  Some tv producers must have watched The Royale Family and thought why we don’t we film telly addicts watching their favourite shows for real.  Thus Caroline Aherne voiced the first series and now it’s Dave’s (Craig Cash) turn for series 2.   It’s that simple and it is so watchable for the same reasons other Channel 4 documentaries such as 24 Hours in A&E and the Educating Series have been.  It shows all the beauty and pathos of humanity in our most mundane moments.   You can be roaring with laughter one minute and crying the next .  Viewing everyone shed a tear for Mushy the boy with the stammer on Educating Yorkshire was even more moving than watching the original transmission.  I confess my screen went very blurry for a second time.  Sadly I can’t find the Educating Yorkshire clip (another outstanding show) but here is a taster, if you haven’t already discovered the delights of Stephanie & Dominic, Jean & Leon et al goggling at the box.


Why Does Mum = Skivvy?

How my kids see me

How my kids see me

It seems to me that the number one complaint from all my very wonderful, capable and highly organised girlfriends isn’t that they wished they had Jennifer Anniston’s hair or Kate Middleton’s wardrobe or the body of a supermodel. Nope their number one complaint, to a woman, is that no one else in their house clears up after themselves.

That stairs are magical, making anything placed on them (for later transportation up the stairs) invisible everyone, except the woman of the house;

That houses left clean and tidy when my friends go to work, are like bomb-sites when they return tired and weary after a long hard slog at the office;

That they are treated as a living, breathing search engine, “Mum where are my trainers?” “Have you seen my homework/car keys/phone/gerbil (delete as applicable, list is infinite).  That we know the satellite position, or have the intel of the last known sighting of every single item in the house. Information that can be recalled quicker than a Google algorithm;

That no one realises that clothes don’t wash, dry and iron themselves;

That if the men folk do decide to cook every ingredient is in the store-cupboard ready for them, as if Jamie Oliver’s food porn team have been to prep for them before (and then use every pan in the house). The rest of the time we have to respond to “Mum, what’s for tea?” and come up with an answer that would satisfy the harshest foodies, your own kids. Masterchef critiques hold no fear for me, (although I don’t like Paul Hollywood from GBBO – he is really creepy, and I quite like a soggy bottom myself and undercooked pastry with custard is divine!!, sorry just had to get that off my chest!).

All this puts me in mind of that old joke,

Woman “I wish they would invent something that restocked the fridge every time something in it ran out”

Male colleague “Oh I have one of those already. It’s called a wife!”

Carson - making the disapproving sneer into an art form - mothers of the world take note!

Carson – making the disapproving sneer into an art form – mothers of the world take note!

Well I am putting it out there right now. I would like a wife! Working full time, raising two kids, I need a wife. I want a wife. Why can’t I have a wife! Husband and children are great but they just make more mess and don’t see what needs to be done. I am fed up trying to be the entire staff of Downton Abbey, from Carson to Daisy and everyone else in between.

Another friend of mine tried to get her son to do some cleaning up, she even bought a book to show that other children tidy up after themselves…. the response. The boy just laughed and walked away!

Confession Time!  I do have form in this area myself. I can remember all too plainly my despairing mum telling me the story of the little red hen. She even bought me the book.(Nothing really changes does it!). If you don’t know the story of the little red hen I will quickly recount it now. She asked for help from everyone in the farmyard and everyone refused her, so she worked all alone. When she had finished she had a beautiful feast prepared and everyone wanted to help her eat it. And she refused them and ate it all herself. She was a tough old bird, no one helped her so why should she give them anything?

If you won't help... you won't eat.  Simple.

If you won’t help… you won’t eat. Simple.

Could this be why mum = skivvy because we don’t refuse our children enough! Harry is now at high school, and we have been sent home with booklets about not doing anything for the child that they can do themselves. To get them into good practice for independent learning. To let them do things and let them learn by their own mistakes, in essence not to keep stepping in and saving them.

Well it’s just so hard isn’t it. Besides the fact they are your flesh and blood and it is fundamental to our core to protect them from hurt and pain, there are the practicalities of life. If you are rushing to get a young child to school, you help them get dressed so they are not late. When you want the reassurance that your child has everything for high school, it’s a comfort to you to help pack the bag isn’t it. And sometimes us women just like things done our way don’t we? Like getting everything into the dishwasher so it all fits, just so. It is just much less hassle. Men may further along the autism spectrum with their collections and fixations but I think women lead the way in OCD behaviour (let’s not get into my inability to let washing sit in a machine after the cycle is finished. it’s not pretty).

But this is so like a woman isn’t it, to turn it back on ourselves, to give ourselves the blame,  that our children treat us like skivvies because we let them, that it is easier and quicker to do the jobs ourselves.  So I am not going to do it. I am going to make my stand, I am going to play the interactive you tube clip of the Little Red Hen to my children, (I know my audience) see if I can lure them away from their playstations and tablets. Failing that I am just going to hide their chargers! I will let you know how I get on…. you will probably hear the howls of outrage across Yorkshire.


Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock


“This is really why our day goes so fast – even time on is double quick speed”

What you waiting, what you waiting, what you waiting for?  Gwen Stefani challenged herself  and the world with those words in her magnificent and very successful song  to self-believe and motivation.

It has become a bit of a personal anthem for me, especially the line “take a chance ‘cos you might grow” (not sadly the bit “you’re still a super hot female” or even more sadly “you’ve got your million dollar contract and they’ll all waiting for you hot shot”).  It would pop into my mind on repeat, a most enabling mantra, spurring me ever on, particularly when I severely doubted I had any abilities.  It has been extremely effective as a “stop faffing and bloody get on with it slogan” during times of  paralysing procrastination.  Usually I was actionless because I was too scared.  This is because I am so risk averse I would make a Health & Safety officer working in a firework factory staffed by chain smokers look devil-may-care in comparison.

But recently I have discovered, and not to my delight or satisfaction that the tick tock part of the song is the real message for me.  I am terrified, to a pathological level of being late or veering off schedule and yet I don’t seem to have the tools or abilities in my behaviour to stay on track.  The deafening tick tock of an impending deadline makes me lose all ability to function like a normal human being.

To give you a recent example, the pressure of delivering four boys to lessons on time in their first week of High School was too much for me when I  felt the minutes disappear quicker than the sight of Usain Bolt’s back if you were foolish enough to challenge him to the 100 metres dash and I thought I wasn’t going to be able to keep to the timetable in my head.   I became a completely different person, quoting bits of “helpful” time management suggestions I had read in the school’s transition booklet.  It was like the past 40 plus years of social engagement and civilised interaction had never happened.   I had become Dr Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, spurting out ridiculous and unnecessary rules and regulations to try to cover up my anxiety.  My friend was left wondering where the real Natalie had gone. I had to wonder too.

But it did bring this lateness thing to a head. It pushed it out in the undeniable open.  I could then see that despite often being late myself.  I hate hate hate being late.  I get such tension in my stomach, I feel such anxiety. My internal monologue becomes a countdown of such annihilating doom it would make nuclear 4 minute warning sound cozy and inviting. Every second over the deadline, my brain screams at me, will result in total armageddon.   This is not a pleasant way to conduct my life, and I really detest how I feel at time like that, so why can’t I just get myself going five minutes earlier?

What does all this prove?  That I am still fundamentally a teenager?  Still sticking two fingers up at the system?  Essentially anarchistic and unable to comply?  Or that like every other mother in the world, working or stay at home, there is just too much to be done on a daily basis, and we are squeezing every last minute, no every last second, out of every day?  In an episode of The Simpsons the family have to evacuate 742 Evergreen Terrace toute de suite, but Marge can’t leave that last dish on the draining board and risks death to return to the kitchen to dry the plate and put it away.  There is always something else to tidy up, clear away, sort out, and all to be done before there is any hope of doing something you might actually enjoy!

At one workplace they identified I had time management problems and said they were going to me some help.  I really wanted someone one to come in and sort out my filing. They gave me a book to read.   Yes you can imagine just how effective that was.  Chocolate Fire-guard anyone?

Over the years I have got slightly better, but I resent feeling a slave to my routine, that time is my master and that if I am to get everything done I need to be conscious of every second of the day.  Woebetide me or anyone that gets in the way of the SCHEDULE.

So here I am, admitting that I don’t like this behaviour, being aware of it and trying to make amends before I give myself an ulcer.  I think I might still be a work in progress though, writing this blog today meant I was two minutes late leaving the house than my schedule allows.  Normally I would still be able to get to work on time, but not today, oh no, road works on the ring road, cue grinding of teeth, and may I just say that anyone doing 28 in a 60 zone needs to be taken off the road IMMEDIATELY AND PERMANENTLY.  I got into work 3 minutes late, a colleague looked up at that betraying clock on the wall, not a word needed to be spoken, my insides churned and my mind cringed.  Still I haven’t left on time either for the past two weeks, or had a full lunch break this term, so I am more than fufilling my work commitment.   But I live in hope that tomorrow I will be on time, calm and serene and in the meantime I will have another quick play of Gwen to fortify my resolve.


The White Queen

I am weeping already.  Tonight at probably around 9.30pm Richard of York is going to give battle in vain.  It’s fair to say I am dreading it.

If you haven’t watching The White Queen BBC1 Sunday nights at 9.00 pm what have you been doing?  It has been the most wonderful, glorious historical drama based on the War of The Roses, which I now know was called the Cousins War at the time and was one of the bloodiest periods of English History. So it is educational as well as hugely entertaining. Double Whammy!  This time though it most originally and refreshingly told from the female perspective.  Women may have living with little control in their own futures, but this drama shows you just how much  power they held as wives, daughters, sisters and mothers.   Margaret Beaufort (played by Amanda Hale) mother of Henry Tudor is scarily ambitious for her son, believes she is on a mission from God and demonstrates political nous Machiavelli himself would have been proud.

I won’t deny I found it hard to follow at first.  Everyone seemed to be called Edward, Henry, Richard, Margaret or Elizabeth.   Where there no other names in Medieval times? Luckily the Earl of Warwick was also called the Kingmaker, which helped him stand out a bit but there was so much double-dealing and swapping of allegiances it made my head spin!  Thank God for internet on phones these days,  a quick consult with various historical websites before every episode and suddenly I got it, I understood how everyone thought they had claim to the throne.  It was as if I could spot the money every time in a con man’s game of 3 cups, no matter how fast he moved them around.

The whole cast has been wonderful, full of the next generation of British Acting talent.  It was brave of the BBC to commission a 10 episode drama containing very few star names.  But I am so glad they did.  I will admit thought at the start I watched for Janet McTeer as Jacquetta, the White Queen’s mother, another compelling performance (if you haven’t seen her in Albert Nobbs I recommend you rent it out straightaway, she is a joy and delight in every scene). Newcomer Rebecca Ferguson has been excellent as the titular Queen, a commoner whose radiant beauty helped her rise to be Queen of England (some things never change even in 600 years!) but as you might have guessed my eye has been most caught by Richard of York, better known to the world as Richard III, played brilliantly and with increasing intensity as his proximity to the Crown drew ever closer.

Played by Aneurin Barnard,  Richard, Duke of Gloucester is no bunched-back toad or bottled spider of  the Shakespeare play.  He is much more Edward Scissorhands than Richard Twisted Limbs. The loyal brother of  Edward IV, I feel the Ricardians, so recently delighted with the location of his skeleton in the car park in Leicester, would feel this is a much fairer portrayal.  Still there are moments of great complexity and ambiguity of character. For example when he married Anne Neville, daughter of the aforementioned the Earl of Warwick, there was a sense of uneasiness, was really he rescuing her from his increasingly unstable brother George, Duke of Clarence or was he thinking of himself and the riches he would gain?  As an audience member you are never quite sure, is it duplicity or affection? I guess we will never know.  As always the truth is probably somewhere in between.  My view, for what it is worth, is that he was a good man but becoming King made him act in ways he wouldn’t have ordinarily to keep the Crown.  It is this beautiful nuanced performance, this uncertainty, constantly keeping the audience on its toes to try to work out his motives makes me think that Aneurin Barnard has a very big future ahead of him.  I am definitely putting him on my one to watch list.

And just because I love this Horrible Histories song so much, here it is again, the song that first made me realise that the history books “might have been telling it wrong” and that Richard III “was a nice guy” after all!