Tuesday, August 25, 2015

stuff you buy when you're drunk

It continues to be bleak, sad and generally dismal times in my house, in my world, so I'll do what I do best:
Compartmentalise it and talk about something else.

She Who Also Loves Tweed waltzed into work the other day carrying a package under her arm. With glee she announced that "her new coffee cup" had arrived.

While I imagined it to be something like this:
You know, cute, portable, practical, can stand up on it's own, it turned out to be this:
 Woah......what is that?
"It's my portable goat horn coffee mug. With shoulder strap, leather holster and hessian sack. All the way from Slovenia!"

Well, obviously this desishe was made when you were drunk, right?

"I might've polished off a bottle of pinot."

It can also double up as a conch shell, Viking claw, weapon, calabash, musical instrument, a Druid relic....

Tweedy is being strangely adamant in using it, even though it doesn't actually stand up on it's own, and I've bet her £20 (the actual value of the thing) that she won't be using it next week.

This got us talking about stuff we've bought when we've been drunk.

I bought a piano. By mistake. After an exceptional bottle of Diemersfontein pinotage. Which turned out to be a pretty fucking expensive mistake.

This is what other people around me have bought, and for added fun, I'm going to rate it from 1 to I Bought A Piano of worst things to buy when intoxicated (WTTBWI) scale.

Flared white 'fashion' trousers in Milan
"I got caught up in the hub-bub of being in the fashion capital of the world!" he protests, in his usual garb of twill grey pants and brown knitted cardigan. "I was in Milan! I was on the Aperol Spritz, everyone was wearing incredibly tight trousers, and I felt like I needed to step it up a notch and fit in."
So, he went to a designer store (there are only designer stores in Milan), and bought himself some skinny - but flared at the bottom - white tailored pants. And wore them there. Even after the Aperol hangover had passed.
"They had this slight, but now very obvious white sheen. If I'm honest, this is what attracted me to them in the first place. It's like my entire personality and preferences changed, because, really, [hands flailing wildly as he reaches the crescendo of his story], these pants were very unlike like me at all!"

They cost a fortune, and later when unpacking his suitcase back in Britain, was asked by his wife whether his "Elvis impression" was well-received in Italy. WTTBWI rating: a solid 6/10.

A ukelele
"Unsure of whether this was a ukelele or banjo at the time," said the dissident. "But thought it would be really cool to learn to play it after drinking whisky sours and listening to Alabama bluegrass all evening."
Thanks to Amazon Prime, the strung instrument was on her doorstop before the hungover had even kicked in, and at [fairly] minimal expense. WTTBWI rating: 6/10.

A wagon wheel.
"I fucking loved my wagon wheel," this one says, before anyone has the chance to discuss whether a wagon wheel is very authentic or in fact, very kitsch.
"My ex-girlfriend tried to throw it away and I found it next to a tip one morning. Needless to say, our relationship is no longer," he says, still rather fired up.

The wagon wheel was purchased after a heavy session of craft ale drinking in deepest darkest Hackney, where one finds shops selling wagon wheels and rollerblades, simultaneously.

The thing is said to be an original piece "Great Trek memorabilia", plucked from the foothills of Isandlwana. (I totally made that up, but I imagine the sales pitch was as such.)
"It's also fucking heavy. The entire thing is encased in a lead bracket, so while I thought I'd lift it to hang off the ceiling, it's still sitting in my garage."
How did he carry it home?

He doesn't remember. And no remembrance of the price tag either, but given it sounded like it came off Piet Retief's wagon himself, I'm guessing it was "show me the benjamins" expensive.  WTTBWI rating: a 7/10.

A decorative ladder.
Similar to the tale above, but slightly more out there object. The plummy girl from Notting Hill said she walked past a shabby chic gallery shop on the Portobello Road after too many Skinny Bitches (vodka + soda water + twist of lime), and decided to buy what she describes as 'an artful ladder.'

"My friends thought it was the most outrageous thing because my flat hasn't been decorated in years. I don't have any art on the walls, no matching linen, and yet, here I had this £900 ladder leaning on my bedroom wall.....that I couldn't even climb because it was...art." 

A ladder that leads to nowhere. Artfully made to look like the paint on it is peeling, and can be leant up against a wall for no reason whatsoever. A 8/10 on the WTTBWI.

A one way flight. To Beirut.
The Canadian in my office did this. In the dead of night. And actually went.
A good few hundreds of pounds later, three new time zones, one continent and an airplane meal later, this rates a cool 9/10 on the WTTBWI. Assuming it meant she had to also buy another one way ticket back to London after the fact. 

So next time you buy a room burner, or reed infuser, or a porta-pool, or a snakeboard or a three pack of plaid shirts online, when drunk, you might not feel so bad now.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

the fear

 Well it's certainly been a gnarly couple of weeks. The Brit and I are exhausted; all the emotional stuff and constant needing to sort things out, while also driving to and from Hampshire every few days has really taken it out of us.

Last night we were asleep by 8pm.

There's just so much to do and so much to think of all the time.

When will we get rid of Sebastian's dummy, with his teething it's nigh impossible for him not to have it, but he needs it to fall asleep and I worry he will be sucking on it when he is 21 years old, when and how do I make the break, do I wait for the dummy fairy to appear when he is 2? Will he get what that is?

When do I drop this morning bottle of his, he also cannot cope with not coming into bed with us to have his bottle in the morning and I foresee him wanting to do this when he is a grown man, why oh why does this worry me so much and why don't I just let him have a bottle forever then?

We need to move. Our flat is too small. Where will we move? Will we still be relatively close to London? I dream of long, unbridled areas of space where children can run around in the open, and the rooms are roomy and the garden large. But then we'd need to leave Clapham. My home, the place I rather have grown to love over the years.

I have to do a live TV interview and radio interview this week. I get nervous about such things.

I fear Winter this year like I've never feared Winter before. The fear usually sets in about nowish, when there is an ever-so-slight, almost unrecognisable, but still very much there, chill in the air. The days are reaching 21 degrees and no higher.
But this year, I face Winter with a new, unchartered realisation. And the fear has mushroomed into terror.
I have a toddler.

What on Earth do people do with little boys in winter? I know the answer to this already, but allow me. At the moment, we spend entire days, do multiple visits, pretty much spend our weekends doing shift work at Clapham Common. Where there is coffee, swings, wide open spaces, a massive sandpit, and a cordoned-off area just for children to run around in.
This is all very well when the wind isn't howling at gale-force, the rain isn't coming down in 45% sheets in your face, it isn't freezing, and it isn't fucking dark.

One lives like a mole in winter here. You're either underground, or you come out when it's dark.
This is bothersome for a number of reasons, but mostly because you get Seasonal Affective Disorder. But at least you get to be indoors.

With a rambunctious, little boy toddler who has more energy than you can shake a stick at, I still have to go outside. And regularly. So that the chap can burn some of it off, so he doesn't claw his way up our walls with frustration.

Which means full-length rain suits, eight layers of thermals, putting that rain thing over the buggy over and over again, trying to be comfortable while being wet. And cold.
Or heading to a soft play. Which is filled with little snot machines and germ-addled monkeys, and queues, and shit fits, and wondering which child is yours, because you can't find him between the ball pit and the climbing ropes, then panicking because he did a pooh and it's seeping out of his dungarees and onto the slide.

Yeah. Winter fills me with a panic so severe, I wonder whether I might convince the Brit that we immigrate back to Africa.

Or again, buy a house in deepest, darkest Kent. Where there is a play room. That we wallpaper from top to bottom with metres of those foam squares. And attach a Tarzan swing to the ceiling.

On the plus side, in about two months, we have three weeks in South Africa. before winter really sets in.

Monday, August 10, 2015

unexpected loss

After such a lovely weekend with them a couple of weeks ago (see below), my mother-in-law very unexpectedly pass away last week.

The shock and grief that is running through my Brit and his family at the moment is inconceivable. She was such a young-at-heart, healthy woman. Never did anyone expect something like this to happen.

The last week has been grim, as you can imagine. I went down to Hampshire with the Brit for the first four days, to be there and to support. Although I felt like there isn't much I can really do, having my hands full with Sebby, but all in all, good to be there with them.

We all have such heavy hearts. Her funeral is this coming Friday, and the Brit is saying a eulogy. He is still down there sifting through the aftermath and her things. It's dreadful on all accounts.

I am so deeply saddened for him, and for her grandson, my Sebastian. He was just getting to know her, and now at 16 months old, sadly won't remember his Granny. There is an absolute emptiness, and it's left her family inconsolable.

I'm back at work now, and will be down there again on Thursday.
My only hope is that she is with Molly. The rose our friends gave to us on my twins birthday this year has just sprouted its first bloom in our garden. So I'd like to think of it as a sign that they are together, wherever they may be.

Monday, July 27, 2015

lulworth cove

We went away this weekend, down to Hampshire to see the Brit's parents and go to a wedding.  It was sheet rain for most of the weekend, except Saturday.

We stayed here, in the heart of the New Forest. Beautiful outside; the set of Fawlty Towers inside:

We got in the car and drove a little way further southwest, to the Dorset Jurassic Coastline.
It's amazing. It's a well known area to geologists for the insane rock formations and layers of sandstone and shale, and it's completely prehistoric - there have been tons of fossils found here, and the landscape hasn't changed much in millions of years.

We headed to Lulworth Cove, where you're reminded how well the British do "country." Rural little hamlets, bursting with so much quaintness it's almost saccharine.

We ate pasties, licked ice creams, and lay in the sun staring at the cloud formations, for what seemed like hours (but wasn't; Sebastian was asleep in his buggy next to us for about 45 minutes), but we climbed the grassy hills nearby and took in the views, and sat on the beach while some friends came to join us.

I'll let the pictures do that talking. (If you live in the UK, this is well worth a trip on a sunny day...)
 Lulworth Cove
 Mummy having a break. While eating double clotted cream ice cream.
 Rolling around with my boys
Oh good. He just did a pooh.
One wouldn't think this was in Britain, would they?
 This mill pond is so quaint, it's almost too much.
Of course, someone will want to show off. And fly a kite.

 So that was nice.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

my wrecking ball

 Baby walker. Emotional.

It's been a long week. The Brit has been in South Africa for a project, and got in this morning. As he rounded the corner, Sebastian saw him and started to hyperventilate with excitement.

So. Flipping. Cute.

As most things go, whenever the Brit goes away for work, Sebastian gets sick.

Usually this means I need to leave work early to collect him from nursery (check - viral rash all over his body, and soaring temperatures), or a bunch of teeth erupt like Vesuvius in his mouth and nothing I do will make him happy (check - he "sprouted" what looks like six molars in his mouth, in just two days. Is this even normal?)

Of course, when I went to the US, not a tooth or fever blemished the week in which Daddy was being house husband. Only when Dad goes. It's like he knows.

 Practising his walking/standing. Generally showing off.

So it's been a harrowing week. Basically, when you're up and down all night with a screaming child, who refuses to take Calpol (I mean, what?), and you're so sleep deprived that your senses become completely dulled (Walking in the rain, not realising you're walking in the rain. "Why are our clothes wet?" Yes, this happened), you basically kind of give in.

You give in to it all. You know now, that somehow, this isn't going to last forever. Even if it feels like every hour that ticks by with a grumpy, unhappy, unsleeping child, feels like a week stretching beyond you, you just give in to everything.
 Rearrange my cupboard? No problem. Just put it all back. Incidentally, he tries to - which is quite sweet. I found things stuffed into the wrong places, but the idea is there....long may it last.

As long as you don't have to have an actual conversation with anyone, usually you can just about get by. (Fine on weekends; work not so much.)

We clung to each other like primates during the roughest days. Sebastian gets clingy when he is sick and teething, and I was getting Stockholm Syndrome, (when things are so shit and so deluded you miss them when they stop), so every hour or so we would cling to each other as he was gurning his teeth off. I needed cuddles just as much as he did.
We survived!

I'd live for cake and coffee. As he arose every morning at 4:30am, angry and ready to fight, (then, immediately playful and pouncing everywhere), I thanked the universe for giving us a weekend of solid sunshine, and bundled him into his buggy and took him to the park. Both parks. All parks. So that I could drink two flat whites and eat a massive piece of cake, and he could run around and get out of the house.
 Must eat cake with coffee. Standard.

I met up with a mummy friend and basically spent the weekend chasing after my little wrecking ball as he leapt, crawled, (now starting to walk) in every direction.

He is a handful. But even through the shittiest of weeks, I just love him more and more. He is obssessed with dogs now and points, and gets excited when he sees one and says, "Gaw!"
(A 'gaw' is a dog, but it's also a book, a wall, a shoe, any kind of object.)

He is so loving and tactile, and in equal measures so active it's fairly frightening. He climbs up over the couch like a little baboon, and now onto chairs, where he can now reach a place I never thought he would - the mantelpiece. Where the last surviving bastion of my adult life lies; things like trinkets and ornaments, all orderly and unbroken. There is a threat to their existence now too.

He uses my body as an obstacle course, and will throw himself over me and climb on me if I am sitting anywhere near him.
Definitely up [about to climb up onto] to something.
He is 100% boy. And one with some serious gnashers now. That he bites me with. Not out of malice, but more affectionate little nips.

I wonder how Daddy is going to deal with this level of teething torture now that he is home?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

our race

Now that the endorphins have died down - and I am still so enthused about the race we did - to the point where I almost left the house to go to work this morning wearing a dressing gown not a dress but that's another story - I genuinely think it was the best thing we have done in years.

I'll get right to it - together we managed to raise £2 200 (and hoping to double that by way of a donation match that my company offers!) for Sands. Thanking everyone from the bottom of my heart who supported us and gave what they could - every little bit has totaled into something that is a good, substantial amount, and I am thrilled.

5 things I learnt from doing my first real run race:

1) It is a fuckload harder to run on a treadmill.
All throughout training for this thing, I worried that I wasn't fit enough or doing enough of the right stuff. I was wrong.

I'm going to sound like a wanker now, but I'm only saying it because it's true: the race was a piece of piss.

Treadmills are boring. Suddenly running through the streets of central London, everything changes. I ran through Piccadilly Circus and probably for the first time, actually liked it, (no wall of tourists or stressful, "where the fuck am I how do I get out of here" moments). Plus, we had Regents Street and Pall Mall, Big Ben, all to ourselves.

I now know my training technique definitely worked. And it's a mixture of teaching my lungs to stretch to their limits; and doing this over a long period of time.

I never ran on a flat setting, I ran uphill on the treadmill. I was laughed at, but hey, it fucking worked, didn't it?
I did a few 6-7 kilometre runs uphill every few days, and I mostly did HIIT.
Where you sprint until your lungs just about burst and then walk it off. Repeat for 45 minutes.

So if there's one thing I learnt? I may be carrying a few extra pounds, but I am the fittest I have ever been.

2) It was the most satisfying thing I have done in ages

I cried, and I reveled in the noises, crowds and other 25 000 runners ahead of me and behind me. It was wonderful having the Brit run right beside me all the way. It was wonderful to know that even at the finish line, we could've kept on going.

We saw other runners racing for Sands, one family in front of us had a little sign attached to their shirts that said, "For Ava." That got me very tearful. Why had we forgotten to put a sign saying "For molly" on ours? What a massive, stupid oversight. It's the one time I can proudly parade around with my daughter's name literally attached to my shirt, and we didn't do it.

It was emotional. We were running sometimes with tears down our cheeks. I felt close to my daughter, but also close to the cause, and all the other little babies who were meant to be in our world but aren't.

I saw the Sands crowd at Parliament Square egging us on, and I burst into tears. Sobbing while running isn't ideal, for one you sound like you're actually having a heart attack, and it's loud and wheezy, and as luck would have it, the marathon camera people took about three pictures of me with my Crying Face.

Definitely not one for the wall, lemmetellya.

But to run and do something you're a little bit afraid of, that takes a lot of work and preparation to do, and to do it for a cause and memory of something that means a lot to you, really is the most satisfying thing.

3) You feel like you are really part of something

All moving along together, in your various charity shirts, you realise that there are a lot of charities in this world for a lot of different things. Which gets you wondering why someone has chosen a particular one, they must have a story.

Everyone is running for their story. Maybe a relative died of cancer, maybe they have fought cancer themselves. But it's so inspiring to be a part of something, where you are all doing and running for a purpose, together.
Medalz. One for Kanye's jewellery box?

4) I respect the non-athletic types the most

And the guy running with a fridge taped to his, for all 10 kilometres, I don't know what your story is, but kudos for that. I mean, fuck.

Races that aren't half-marathons, Ironmans and so forth bring out a splendid mixture of diverse body types, ages and running styles. For the grandad slowly chugging along, to the ginormous woman who was huffing and puffing it up the hills, to those with various ailments - they suffer way more doing this, and yet still fucking do it, despite the fact that they all find it difficult to move.

My utmost respect.

5) It's a bug. I get it.

I went through a stage circa 2007 where I used to do cycle races a lot. The Argus, The 94.7, the Soweto - and it was amazing. Even if I couldn't walk for days afterwards, they were just the best. And this race reminded me of that high you have and start to get while doing the race.

It makes you want to do more.

The moment we finished, the Brit and I turned to each other and said, "I could totally do another!"
We had barely crossed the finish line, and hadn't stopped hyperventilating, enough to know we would do more.

It's got me thinking, "Fuck. Maybe I should do something more challenging. A half marathon. Yes. That's next."

So, watch this space. It may even happen next time. Even if it is double the distance.

The one thing that drives me a little bit berserk, and my one disappointment here is the fact that we did the race in 1 hour and 1 minute.

I mean, for all the nerve. Had I known we were over by 60 seconds, I would've upped my pace much sooner to the end. I would've felt pretty chuffed if I'd done it in the hour like I'd wanted.
But hey, there's always next time......

And finally,

A shout out to my mum and Rolf, and my Best Irish Gay friend and his partner.

My folks, while in the Eastern Cape, did a 10 kilometre walk of their own all along the beach at Kenton, in memory of Molly, while we ran.

They even created their own signage.

This really warmed my heart.

My Best Irish Friend and his lovely partner, came to babysit Sebby for us while we ran, suitably bribing him with snacks and toys, then meeting us near the finish for a picnic and mimosas in St James' Park.

So grateful for friends like these.

Friday, July 10, 2015

being outside

Summer in Britain can be so absolutely extraordinary when it makes the effort.
Everything in the stark sunshine is always so crisp and beautiful, and so fucking cunning, you really do forget that the other 9 months of the year are really foul.

People are walking around semi-naked, the flowers pop out at you, the houses look beautiful in all of their Victorian splendour, hell, even the ghetto street sof south London look good, awash with braiding shops and halal butcheries, during the largest tube strike since 2002.

Yes, that was yesterday - the entire Grid shut down, and most people had to walk or run across the city to get to work (buses too stuffed), but this didn't bother as many people as you'd have thunk. Had it been raining and shit, there would've been fights and immigration papers filed ("That's it, we're moving to Spain"), but instead, people popped their sunnies on and happily walked across the city.

I had to get into the City city yesterday for a meeting, which took me 3 hours (three stuffed buses later, an Uber, a pricesurge, a walk across Kennington - don't ever do this unless you have to), I got to Bank, and on a scale of 1 to glamping at Glastonbury and the sun is shining, I was a solid 8.

I then walked a very pleasant 45 minutes across town to get to my office, tunes pumping, and admiring such buildings like St Paul's cathedral, the Gherkin and other City landmarks I don't often see.

Anyway, the point is, it's all a big farce. This doesn't happen often. When it does, people are completely overjoyed.
You notice things like hydrangeas bursting from people's front gardens on the street.

You do obscene things like fire up the braai, and thank the Lord we have now have a garden in which to do it.

While your child plays for hours in his swimming pool. And you get to drink a glass of wine that's chilled, not luke warm, because he is completely occupied with a Get In/Get Out experiment, where, for an hour, he focuses solely on climbing in and out of his pool.

You realise that when you're not at work/inside an office, you spend most of your time lazing about on the common. Alongside the rest of the nation.

We spent pretty much the entire weekend in a public park last week.

 This is where England goes when the sun shines.
 Hats,water. Essential.

 Most of these people are mostly naked.
 Including my son, because it was 35 degrees, hottest day on record, and it was 6pm.
Thank fuck for watermelon.

And things like strawberries and cream while watching the Wimby.

Basically spending a lot of time outside and in the sun.

It's amazing. England, you're forgiven.