Sunday, 30 September 2012

The circle of life (without Sir Elton singing)

Two years ago someone who I loved very much passed away and on the same day someone came into my life who I love more than I know how to express.

A face only a Naniji would love
My beloved Naniji was the only grandparent I ever knew. She lived far away in India so I only saw her every few years, so my Mum used to send her photos of us all growing up. When I visited her aged 11 she had all my school photos and many others I'd never seen before that she kept lovingly in her special cupboard of valuables.

Even though I didn't see her often she was still the person I consulted on the big decisions in my life. It's from my Naniji that I get my love of tea - she never turned down a brew and teatime was a big deal in her house. Snacks, cakes, biscuits, savouries, etc. all laid out with endless cups of tea. This was all just a few hours before dinner !

I trusted her and found her wise, sassy and hilarious. Once during a family visit to a Rajastani palace we turned round to ask her a question and she'd raced on ahead of us to make sure she didn't miss the tour. She was in her late seventies and faster than all of us.

When Hubbie and I were struggling to have a baby she talked to me honestly, openly and without judgement. Despite her speaking no English and Hubbie speaking no Punjabi they watched cricket together enraptured and in complete agreement. She wandered off again when we'd gone out shopping one day only to be found over an hour later in a coffee shop watching the big screen with local lads who were fussing over 'Ma-ji' and arguing with her assertion that India would win until she was proven right yet again.

She was fearless and held her own with anyone. As a young woman she went away to study with the support of her husband who took care of the children while she trained to become a teacher. This was unheard of at that time and in that culture. In her subsequent career she taught in a small village school bringing education to children who would not have gone to school otherwise and retired as a headteacher and widow.

My Naniji was one of the lads, the matriarch and the cheekiest person in the room all at once. She adored ice cream and loved nothing more than making her children and grandchildren laugh. It is that cheekiness that I see in my son's eyes and the smile he has when he's getting away with something. I'm delighted that Naniji knew I was having a son. The obvious Asian preference for boys aside, we have a lot more women in our family so he was the first boy in a long time. The fact that she passed away as he was being born is far too poignant to bear. 

The proudest Naniji in the world
When I spoke to my Mum in India from the hospital bed she told me that everyone was so delighted about my boy. She couldn't wait to meet him and I desperately wanted her to see him before anyone else. I didn't know that Naniji was gone at this point, but everyone else did. When Mum told me all I could say was how sorry I was - I felt responsible for her losing her mother so that I could have my son.  She insisted that the whole family felt joy for his life instead of sadness for her death. 

Mum returned two weeks later and we surprised her at the airport with her new grandson. Their meeting was belated, but no less magical for being in the arrivals lounge of Heathrow. Now the mantle of Naniji belongs to my Mother and she wears it every bit as well as hers did. 

In the moments that my son is willful and argumentative (which are becoming more frequent the older he gets) I have to stop myself being angry and see him for the strong and independent soul he is. There are photos of him in which I see my Naniji's expressions - it's uncanny. 

I'm not asking anyone else to believe in reincarnation or Karma. For my part I believe that my Naniji leaving us was a Karmic exchange that gave me my precious boy. I know she would have loved him beyond measure and I hope he adores and values his Naniji as much as I did mine. 

Have a wonderful birthday son xxx

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it

I've been considering whether or not to buy an early bird ticket to the Mumsnet Blogfest and it's caused me to ponder. My main ponder has been about the depletion of social skills that comes from being at home with my boy and whether or not I could be in a room full of strangers for a whole day without hiding in a corner nursing a drink and calling Hubbie every 20 minutes to ask what the boy is doing.

In ponder mode the list making goes haywire and my observations of minutiae become more frequent. This is just a selection of them from this week: 

- When I take my son to nursery we pass under a canopy of trees - he calls it a 'snuggle' 
canopy trees 100_2203.jpg
A 'snuggle'
- If something is wrong with my boy I take him to the doctor immediately. However, my arm has been 'not right' for four days, but I keep telling myself that it's fine. I can't tell if I'm over or under-reacting. 

- The cat comfort eats during bad weather and strokes me with his paw when we're sharing the sofa. I could sleep all day. Have we swapped lives ? 

- We were at playgroup on Wednesday and my boy came over and asked for a "Mummy cuddle" then clambered up onto my lap - he has never done this before - my heart skipped a beat

- The day after I stock up on baby stuff it's all on offer - are the shops doing it on purpose ? 

- A new Bond movie is coming out soon - I remember when this used to be a diary date for me and my friends to watch at the Odeon Marble Arch. Now it's a waiting game before it's out on DVD

- Despite owning 3 different sizes of jeans (pre, during and post pregnancy) I have not one pair that fits right now

- When it's raining my son looks out of the window and says "pitter patter" - I'm delighted that he chooses onomatopoeia over mere description 

Some weeks you just watch what's going on in the world. That's been this week for me. 

Sunday, 23 September 2012

There is a light that never goes out

Weekends are always packed in our family with my zumba class, the boys going to rhymetime and football and all of us going swimming. Fitting in anything extra requires logistics that would make the MOD proud. We did, however, manage to find a space in the schedule to attend an open day for a school this weekend. My boy loved everything about it and yelled like a banshee when we moved him from one fun filled room to another as he realised that all of it was geared toward keeping him occupied.

A bit of tutoring with Daddy
As neither Hubbie nor I went to an independent school it was a whole new experience and refreshing to meet teachers who can spell, use grammar and don't dress like I did in my second year at university. I'm not sure why we received a free teddy bear and a big helium filled balloon to take away with us, but I think that is designed to distract from the sting of the fees they charge. I did find myself picturing my son in a school with small class sizes, a swimming pool onsite and an interactive whiteboard in every classroom - including the nursery ones. 

Of course the point of an open day is to show the school in the best possible light and to sell it to potential parents. The main concern I have is whether considering a fee paying school for our son is a sign that we have entirely lost touch with our idealistic notions and rewritten our own history. From being an activist about everything at university to waking up one day middle aged is a salutary lesson.

However, I do console myself that at least I recognise that I'm not a fearless upstart any more. Imagine living with the massive denial that the former frontman of the Smiths labours under. Morrissey has never been a bundle of laughs. Witness the cheerless titles the Queen is Dead, Girlfriend in a Coma and Meat is Murder, as opposed to Vicar in a Tutu and Shoplifters of the World Unite which I thought demonstrated how the Smiths were funny and their lyrics amusing, but now I'm not so sure.

Hand on glove and plant in back pocket

There was a time when Morrissey was the angry young man and poster child for sullen and disaffected youth with his precocious commentary on modern life and all it's failings. Now he's an older man he still deigns to make controversial pronouncements from his cosy ex-pat life in LA where he thinks his teenage rants are still relevant.

Out of loyalty we still listen to his rants, but he's less a national treasure and more a Victor Meldrew figure with a cooler following (my father-in-law thinks One Foot in the Grave is hilarious, but he has no idea who the Smiths were). People of my generation still think Mozzer is like a cool uncle who used to take us to festivals and is now vaguely embarrassing, but we're still loyal to him out of respect for what he once was to us. Anti-establishment and so very clever.

I'm not saying I'm going to get rid of my weird and wonderful music, or give my tour t shirts to charity as a sign that I've grown up. After all I've still got my original Doc Marten boots to show my son when he thinks he's the first teenager to be rebellious and/or misunderstood. 

What I am saying is that when it's his turn he's going to have to go some to find a style of music and a political viewpoint that we find completely disagreeable. If he wanders into the house with a long floppy fringe and a canvas bag with Nine inch Nails written on it in felt tip I will smile knowingly to myself - I just won't let on to him. 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Fear and loathing in the muddled mind of a middle-aged mother.

I was out powerwalking the other evening and I'd taken a short cut across the golf course near our house. As it was evening I guessed it wouldn't be too busy and was pondering the previous time I'd wandered too far along the path and been met with a chain across the dead end that warned 'no public right of way.' As I started to walk back uphill I became slightly anxious as I had low battery on my phone and my feet were getting tired. In my head I saw myself twisting my ankle, being stranded and not being able to call home or for help. As I quickened my pace it became more and more of a worry until as I got back to the top and found a path that I could get back home from. It was this path I was on when the following occasion I saw a golfer waving at me to tell me off for walking through the course. The irony made me laugh. I'd been so concerned about the catastrophe that could happen that I hadn't considered the issue that would catch me out - the tartan legged 'sportsman' showing his son how to use a 5 iron.

A 'cat'astrophe ? 
It's this catastrophic thinking that makes my life a constant worry. I can't stop myself - in idle moments - from taking a mental walk to the least desirable outcome. It takes time to realise that I have worked myself up about absolutely nothing, but I know I'm not alone in thinking every siren is a bad news one for me when Hubbie isn't home yet. During a recent spate of burglaries in our area I actually spent every minute I was out of the house worrying about it. While it would take a lot of pages to list all of my insanity I've decided to share the most irrational ones for your amusement.

1.  Hubbie and I had only been dating for a few months and I was going away with friends on a skiing holiday. We were going to Whistler for two weeks and I was thinking of asking Hubbie-to-be to flat sit for me. I kind of knew he could be trusted, but there was still a nagging thought maybe I didn't know him that well. I mean those people he'd introduced to me as his parents could have been actors he'd hired and maybe it was all an elaborate con trick ? Of course it was all fine (as evidenced by that fact we're married now) and the actual problem that occured was one I hadn't even considered. It was when we were in Heathrow waiting to check in our bags that one of our party decided to tell me that I needed to have at least 6 months on my passport to visit Canada and I only had around 4 months on mine. I spent the entire flight expecting to be immediately deported while Harriet kept saying she'd just show them her police warrant card (I'm not sure what that would actually do). As I was preoccupied with this drama I didn't even have time to realistically consider that I wouldn't have been allowed on the flight in the first place if it was an issue. The plus side was that with this nonsense to occupy my mind I forgot about my fear of planes.

2. I used to work in a job that took me all over the UK and at one point I visited Cornwall for the first time and while there I picked up a leaflet about surfing. Convinced that I should try it I booked myself onto a surfing course in Cornwall and paid a deposit to secure my place. I was going alone, but the accommodation was in a shared hostel so I was bound to make friends. About a week before I bottled it and cancelled. I'd gone from "it'll be great, just like Blue Juice and everyone knows it's always sunny in Cornwall" to "I'll break something or drown, they will all be fit and blonde and I'll be small, dumpy and clumsy." I still haven't gone back. Of course now I'm obsessed with Hawaii 5-O and Alex O'Loughlin so I may have to revisit this plan.

3. It was for similar reasons that I didn't get too far with my fledgling stand up career. I did a course in the early '90's when it was all the rage. Some of my fellow students actually went on to become something on the circuit. I, however, struggled to write material, talked over the laughs (if I got any) and just felt terribly embarrassed. The entire premise of failing at comedy is that you 'die' on stage and that has to be the ultimate in catastrophe thinking surely ? I mean, who wants to die in front of a room full of strangers ? At least with impro you have a group of people to share the laughs and the silences with and I'm still friends with some of my impro pals.

By far the worst of my catastrophe thinking involves my beloved son. Every new scenario is fraught with potential fears, but the example I've chosen is particularly bonkers:

3. I've taken my boy to a playgroup called Little lions since he was 4 months old and it's a lovely group of Mums and babies with the occasional special day with pampering for Mums. On one of these days I had booked to have a treatment for which I had to go downstairs to the beauty room. My boy was about 6 months and would sometimes cry if he lost sight of me so the other Mums reassured me he'd be fine and they would keep an eye on him and bring him down if he got too upset. While I settled onto the beauty couch I tried to relax, but the thoughts whirring round my head included, 'I don't really know these people, What if they are baby snatchers ? What if they steal my baby ? I don't know where any of them live. I don't know anyone's last name.' etc. etc. Needless to say he was fine and I had spent my pampering time winding myself up into a frenzy of fear for nothing.

All this self-induced trauma does is give me sleepless nights. I know that's part and parcel of parenting, but what was my excuse before I had my son ? The positive in all of this is that I am so very grateful that the things I worry about are just a figment of my fevered imagination. If it stays in that realm I am a very lucky woman indeed.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

From Clockhouse to Yessica and back

As my little man goes to nursery on Mondays and Tuesdays I now have time to do nice things for myself. On a Monday I present my radio show on Croydon Radio and on a Tuesday I usually catch up with some boring housework and watch a DVD if I have time or like today I get something to eat outside the house. I decided to have some dim sum for a treat today and was really surprised at how many families were eating out too. Then Hubbie reminded me that as it's the last day of school hols for most children this is their last hoorah with the grown ups.

When I was at school we didn't have a ritual other than to get our bags and clothes ready the day before we went back for the new autumn term. What we did have was the annual shoe shop on the Saturday before we went back. Every year my Mum would pack us all off in the car and take us to Hounslow to buy everyone new shoes. We always began at the C&A end of the High Street. For the youngsters out there it was like a department store that sold skiing gear at affordable prices and was a favourite amongst Asian families. I was delighted to find a few years ago that C&A still existed in Europe - we bought a pretty ropey suit for Hubbie in a branch in Paris and a vibrant pink coat for me that all but two of the buttons fell off after two wears.

The reason for beginning at C&A was so that my Dad could take hours to buy the same blue shirt and sand coloured trousers he bought every year. It took so long because he was so outraged that his size had gone up since last year and he'd try all permutations of outfit before reverting to his usual style and colours. He was also the wild card in the shoe buying stakes as my Dad has always worn slip on shoes, but he'd insist on trying every pair in every shop before choosing the same ones as last time. I have a theory that he can't actually tie shoelaces which is why he wears slip-ons. He never helped me tie my laces and seemed a bit befuddled when I did them myself. I will test this again when my son has shoes with laces and get back to you.

jimmy_choo_marine_jeweled_sandal.jpgOf course the trawl of the High St ineveitably ended at Curtess shoe shop which provided most of my teenage footwear. It was affordable, pretty fashionable, but not trendy. Also, Paula Rushbrook from school worked in the Greenford branch on Saturdays so she'd slip friends a sneaky discount. I bought my first pixie boots in Curtess and probably many other ill-advised fashion choices. A woman with a love of shoes is so cliched as to be beyond parody. I mention this only because my own love of shoes has slowed in recent years due to swollen feet in pregnancy and now the need to be able to put on shoes quickly to get out of the house to do whatever activity is planned for the day.

I pretty much only wear sandals or boots now anyway as the trawl of the High Street was usually a pointless and ultimately unsatisfying search for the Holy Grail of shoes. A non-ugly, practical and yet nice to look at pair of shoes. I've found they just don't exist so I now own beautiful impractical shoes kept in clear boxes to look at. Lots of flat sandals that tone my legs (apparently) and many, many pairs of boots that keep my feet super warm.

However, it's the pair that I don't yet own that interest me most right now. A few years ago me and Hubbie made a bet which he lost - the details of the bet are not that important - suffice it to say that he owes me a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes and it's now time to collect. I've never spent more than £50 on a pair of shoes (boots don't count) so this is a pretty major purchase for me. If I'm not careful it could end up being the most expensive pair of flip flops ever or a disastrous foray into the world of slingbacks (after a bad experience at Nine West in Las Vegas we don't mention them any more in this house).

I'll keep you posted as the search progresses...