Tuesday, 27 February 2018

A reflection on time

Don't have time 

The one phrase that is guaranteed to annoy the hell out of me is, "I'm too busy." Not because I think it's not true. I trust that if someone has taken time out of their day to tell me they are busy they must really mean it. The reason it vexes me is because pretty much all of us have plenty enough to do. It's not a competition. Making time for others is my first choice. I might say I'm too busy if I don't want to do something, but it's unlikely.

In the nick of time 

On Sunday Brown Bear fell down the stairs. Well he almost did - in a moment of clarity that would have drawn appreciation from a ninja I caught him as he tumbled head first knocking the coats and a pot plant over as he went. Of course as soon as I'd checked he wasn't broken I shouted at him for falling - a panic response familiar to anyone who has looked after an accident prone child. He's still complaining that his elbow hurts, but since he was able to swim and play Sonic on the Sega Megadrive with Daddy yesterday after school I think it's a safe bet that he's going to be fine.

Before her time 

This phrase is so often used when someone passes away. It's true of so many and I'm still struggling to understand why my gorgeous friend died so young, so painfully and so quickly. I've listened as people have reassured me that it will make me value life more. That this happened for a reason and it will not have been for nothing. That her passing has given others the impetus to achieve in her name. For now, though, I'm still just very angry and sad. That's all I can cope with right now.

At the right time 

Our cat is getting old. He's on two pills - one for blood pressure and one for his kidneys and he has a special diet to support his weak kidneys. I know not everyone is soppy about animals and we do spoil him a bit as we are fortunate enough to be able to. As he gets frailer and spends more time indoors I want to make whatever time he has left with us happy and comfortable. It's the kind thing to do and he is one of the family. I can't think about a time when he won't be any more.

Time flies  

When I was a new mum everyone told me that the time would fly and before I knew it my Brown Bear would be a toddler and then a boy. I was advised when we adopted Blue Bear to write down my feelings and take plenty of photos because the memories would fade so quickly. I see them every day so I don't notice how much Brown and Blue have grown until it's startlingly obvious - like when they grow out of all their trousers at once. Recently I realised that Blue Bear is now confident, cheeky and outspoken. Brown Bear has a complicated social life with friends in different circles. I look at the photos and videos of them as babies and toddlers. Before Blue could speak, before Brown could walk. Before these little bears became brothers. They are my babies, yet I can already see the young men they will become. It really is happening so fast.

Take your time

I've always overextended myself and try to pack far too much into each day. I think it's because I don't like to let anyone down so I rarely say no to anything. Instead I end up trying to fit everything in and inevitably it leaves me tired and grumpy. I've spent the last year being schooled in how to practise 'self-care.' I'm still a work in progress at this. Spending time with Hubbie or with the children one to one has been a big change for me. Pacing myself and ensuring I also get enough rest is still a challenge though.

Quality time

The phrase does grate on me, but the sentiment behind it does not. It's often used to berate parents who are twitter shamed for being on their phones with a coffee cup in hand rather than playfully throwing their giggling toddlers into the air while expressing joy in the moment. A few years ago Hubbie asked me what I'd like for Mother's Day and I said I'd like him to take the boys to see Grandma. Friends and other mothers were horrified at my choice. I explained that I'm a Mum every day of the week and for just one day I wanted to just spend the day by myself. Last year I also booked a night away in a lovely hotel by myself. Now that is quality time for me.

Time is an illusion - Albert Einstein

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

How can you mend a broken heart ?

It's been a sad day today. I don't know why in particular. I went to see my hairdresser to plan the big haircut for Macmillan. I'm cutting off my hair and donating it to make wigs for children and we needed to see if it would be long enough to donate. When I was talking to him I felt so sad - not about the hair, I'm not that vain. It made me think about the reason I am doing this. It reminded me how overwhelmed I was when I made the decision to do this. Within hours of hearing of my friend's death I wanted to do something and that was what came to mind. I don't know why and I can't explain what I hope to achieve other than to raise a lot of money for a fantastic cause. 

As I was going about my day today I was listening to the radio. This song came on and I started to cry. A lot. However much I think I've come to terms with loss I really haven't at all. I remembered how the sun shone on the day of the funeral. The funeral director walking in front of the hearse and the tears in her eyes as she also knew Soraya and had arranged her mother's funeral a few years ago. Driving to the crematorium with a family member I'd never met before and making small talk until we got to the chapel. All the while the sun was shining and it was beautiful. 

So why was it that today as I remembered all these things I just felt so very sad. Empty. Hollow. Maybe it is because my heart feels broken.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Some kind of wonderful

On twitter today I spotted the charity Macmillan promoting random acts of kindess by giving out sweets in advance of random acts of kindness day tomorrow - who knew that was even a thing ? As you already know I have a lot of love for the work of Macmillan. They have supported and cared for people I loved and continue to do so for those who are left behind. I've consumed many cakes as both a host and a guest of Macmillan coffee mornings and this year I'm hoping to raise as much money as I can for them in recognition of the amazing work they do. Their aim to ensure no one faces cancer alone is inspiring and much needed.

Earlier this week I was in Brighton with they boys and my sister. As it is half term I thought we'd do some fun things together. The weather put paid to some of those plans as it was cold, wet and windy on Tuesday morning. I still went for a run, but it was pretty miserable and I did keep asking myself why the hell I was outside in such rotten conditions. The evening before, however was much nicer and I had booked to take the boys on the i360 which is on the site of the old West Pier. We'd had a fraught afternoon with the boys getting on each other's nerves - and mine - so I didn't hold out much hope for the trip. As we ascended Blue Bear held my hand tight and said it was like being on a spaceship. We looked outside the capsule at the lights along Brighton Pier as the sky grew darker. I realised the music that was playing was all on the theme of flying. The boys and I danced around and Brown Bear declared, "I thought it was going to be rubbish, but it's not." High praise indeed !

Of course it was also Valentine's Day this week. I know not everyone is into the whole cards, flowers, chocolates, etc. I'm not judging anyone's decision not to join in and I'll thank you not to make a comment on my slavish adherence to all the cliches. I got carried away with buying cards and in the end had to find ways to use them all up so I asked people to address the envelopes and post them from different locations so that Hubbie would get a load of post, but not know it was all from me. The failing in this plan was that I had forgotten I'd signed all of the cards from me. Hubbie gave me flowers, took me to lunch and bought me a hamper of Reese's treats - which shows he's been paying attention to my latest chocolate obsession. The highlight for me, however, was something really simple. When we were in the car he started humming a familiar tune. It took me a few moments to place it, but when I did it was joyful. The night before we'd been to the theatre to watch A Passage to India and the highlight had been the indian musicans playing live on the stage. The tune he was singing was a disco classic from a Bollywood movie. In the early days of our courtship I'd explained the words to this song (something like, "when you came into my life that was something to talk about" - I can't be entirely sure that's accurate though). I was so touched that he remembered the tune and our silly conversation.

Kindness is something I rate highly and when my children are kind I give them a lot of praise to encourage it. In recent weeks I've received such lovely messages from people I don't even know offering condolences for the loss of my friend. I have found a whole new world of kindess that I didn't know before where people have shown care and consideration to me. The week of her funeral was pretty grim. I was honoured to be asked by her widower if I'd like to give a speech and worried about getting it right. I also had a job interview to prepare for and it was all pretty stressful. I attended the funeral on my own as Hubbie was at another funeral for a family member which was attended by my parents and siblings. It was emotional and difficult. As I drove home in the dark - hoping to see my sons before they went to bed - I remembered I had a job interview in the morning. I did my best, but I didn't get the job. All in all it wasn't the best week.

At heart the secret to kindness isn't some great mystery. I do my best to be kind. I like to think it's something that I do as a matter of course. I saw something today that said if you do for someone else expecting anything in return that's not an act of kindness it's a business transaction. My Mum has always been critical of my closeness to my friends and how one-sided she thinks my friendships appear to be. I don't see them that way at all. I love my friends and I will do a lot for them. Sometimes you just have to accept that giving is no guarantee that you will get anything back.

Kindness is not a transaction it is an end in itself. Go forth and be kind.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Rustling up some family meal fun at the weekend

Now both bears are at school weekday meal planning is so simple. They eat breakfast at home, have a hot lunch at school and then I prepare a meal for when they get home. I have a roster of favourite things to eat and chicken is a pretty regualar item. At the weekends it's more freefall depending on their social schedule. If they have parties or football or - like today - we have a family day out planned. Knowing what to feed them is often a spur of the moment decision which is based on what they've already eaten earlier.

The diner meal that inspired us
I'm encouraging them to try new things and it's an uphill struggle with Blue Bear as he is pretty wary of unfamiliar foods. Thankfully he will often try what his brother is eating so that helps. When we were on holiday in Cornwall we went to a few great diners and the boys got into eating chicken burgers. Served with a fab milkshake it made for some pretty fun eating. When we got back home I wanted to try to emulate the meal they'd enjoyed so much.

The lovely chaps at Rustlers asked us to try the twin pack of southern fried chicken burgers that are slightly smaller and perfect for children to manage. They are easy to prepare and make for a quick, convenient and affordable meal when things are busy and they are hungry. The burgers are made with quality chicken and the southern fried coating makes them similar to the famous chicken they have had before and enjoyed.

Mexican twist on the Rustlers chicken burgers

In order to make the meal a bit special we decided to go for a tex-mex vibe. I made nachos grande - a creation of Hubbie's - and served with lots of mexican style dips. I love guacamole, salsa and soured cream, but the boys often just go with one of them. The crunch of nachos and melted cheese adds flavour and texture which I think helps keep them interested in something they haven't had at home before. The sides of onion rings, sweetcorn fritters and spicy wedges did not survive long enough to be photographed !

We bought our Rustlers twin packs in Tesco and also the dips and nachos. As a one stop shop it works pretty well and if they also sold a pinata and sombreros we might have gone for those too. Maybe next time we could try a more italian taste sensation with basil, tomato and mozarella ?

Of course the main thing is to get them fed before they get to this stage. "Erm, Bear ? Bear ? Dinner is served."

My over dramatic bear waiting for dinner

Disclosure: This post is an entry for BritMums Rustlers Burger Hacking Challenge, sponsored by Rustlers 

Friday, 9 February 2018

Movies, music and Meena Kumari.

It's been a bit quiet over here in chocolate towers. Can you imagine that, towers made of chocolate - how fantastic would that be ? Anyway, I digress. I've been taking a break to grieve and process loss and spending time supporting my late friend's widower and her gorgeous son. By the time it gets to the evening - when I usually do my blogging and radio editing stuff - I am so shattered I've been going to bed early. I was over there the other day talking to J about his many visits to India and how much he loves it there. As I drove home I thought about the music and movies I grew up with that were my earliest introduction to my indian heritage. 

Pakeezah: Haunting vinyl memories

From an early age my parents would play indian music on the record player and often it was religious music that I recognised from going to the temple. The other music was from classic movies like Pakeezah which I wasn't allowed to watch because of the morose storyline - it is the tale of a courtesan who falls in love with a man who tries to save her from her miserable life as far as I can tell. Instead my father would tell me all about the beautiful star Meena Kumari who died of cancer during the making of the film so there are scenes where a body double posed as her so the film could be completed. The songs from this film are haunting, but also wonderful and I recall singing this because it was the only one I knew the words to. 

Kabhi Kabhi: The eternal love story.

The film star Shashi Kapoor died a while back. He was from an acting dynasty in India that continues to produce stunning looking actors. In our house he was known for being Felicity Kendall's brother in law and he was in a few Merchant and Ivory films too. When my sister was little she loved dancing on the sofa to Bollywood movies (not that we called them that back then of course) and couldn't say the names of actors so she called them all 'Shee Kapoor.' I first saw him in this classic love story about lovers meeting again years after they broke up when they are with new partners. It now has added poignancy as this song was played at the funeral of one of my Mum's friends.

Sholay: The buddy movie western. 

When I was at primary school we lived next door to an indian family whose older son was called Darminder - apparently because his mother loved the movie star of the same name. We used to walk to school with their children and one morning we knocked on the door to call for them and were told they weren't going in that day. We later found out he had died of a brain haemorrhage completely unexectedly. His movie star namesake was in this buddy movie with Amitabh Bachan - the most famous indian actor of all time pretty much - and it's a classic. It is a western with bollywood dance sequences, a cartoon bad guy and spectacular scenery. If this song doesn't make you smile, well you are made of stone ! 

Namak Halal: Eighties glamour personified. 

In 1981 my parents bought a VCR - good luck explaining what that is to your kids ! - and suddenly we didn't have to drive all the way to Poplar on Sunday afternoon to watch a movie and leave before the end so my parents could open the shop. No longer did my mum have me tugging on her sleeve to ask what was going on. I could read subtitles and follow the action myself. Movies were often 2-3 hours long so we could stop them and go back and watch later if we wanted to. I know other families who barely moved off the sofa when they got them too, but we paced ourselves and would often watch as a family. Namak Halaal was a film that was long awaited in our house as it starred Amitabh and Shashi again and the wonderful Om Prakash. Parveen Babi was the love interest and rocked some pretty stunning dresses in firmly '80s performances like this one.

Kabhi Khushi Khabi Gham: Yes, it's another Amitabh Bachan movie.  

I was walking through Borough Market once and spotted a film crew - someone told me they were filming a Bollywood movie. I never found out which one though. It has always been considered glamorous to film in locations other than India. When I was a child films featured scenes from the Swiss Alps as it was considered exotic to have snow in a movie. The ones I loved the most featured Leicester Square and befuddled passers by wondering why these people were dancing in the middle of London. This one goes a step beyond and is more travelogue than love song.

Generic sixties movies: Beehives and winged eyeliner a-go-go ! 

The best by far - in my opinion - is the truly retro style of the movies made in the sixties. The women were all winged eyeliner and beehives and the dresses were just gorgeous. I recall watching my Mum get ready for social events and she would style her beautiful long black hair and apply make up with precision using a steady hand to get the eyeliner just right. She would choose a pretty bindi colour from a carousel and using a tiny brush she would draw it on. She looked as elegant as any of the actresses - Saira Banu, Waheeda Rahman or Nargis. I love the music of movies from this era. Sometimes it's beatnik, often it's rock and roll and it's always got an indian twist.

No kissing please we're indian: 

While it wasn't the done thing to show too much flesh, movie stars could get away with it in the name of art. The directors even created the infamous 'wet sari' phenomenon which enabled them to show the female form without any nudity. I honestly had no idea it was so well thought out. The puritanism of the movies from my childhood (no kissing, no nudity) has relaxed in recent years. It reminds me of Cinema Paradiso when the priest would go to the cinema to check all inappropriate content has been edited out of films before they were shown to the public. Salvatore's reaction at seeing all the banned kisses on a film reel that he was left by his beloved friend - the projectionist - Fredo was joyous. When the film Sagar came out indian cinemas sold out every performance as youngsters flocked to watch the first on screen kiss of their lives. It was a big moment for kids raised in traditional homes that had banned such 'filth.' Can you imagine if we'd seen this ?