WHAT THE FRINGE?

Here we are then. England has just entered another national lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Are we calling this Lockdown 3.0? The Final Lockdown? Lockdown 3: Lock Hard? Any others names you’d like to throw into the ring? Whatever you’d like to call it, we all have out own measures of what that means. The thing that tells us: we are here, in this state, it’s lockdown.

Whether that is getting back into your comfiest ‘loungewear’ (honestly, I do judge you a little if you ever got out of it); baking another banana bread (those bananas aren’t going to use themselves, pals); setting up another Zoom quiz (I’m busy FYI); or finishing painting your hall (yep, still have a second coat to do YAWN) we all have ‘things’ that signal that it’s here. The third lockdown – see above for name suggestions.

My measure of lockdown is my fringe. In normal times – BC (Before Covid) – I would have it trimmed PROFESSIONALLY, BY A HAIRDESSER every 6 or so weeks. It was a high-maintenance part of my appearance, I admit, but my fringe and I have been together now for 22 years, and I am fully committed to the relationship. Also. The last time I gave myself a fringe trim was when I was about to go to Paris to interview Matt Damon and Christian Bale for their movie Le Mans ’66. Lol, how showbiz. Seems like a dream now. Anyway, I felt like the fringe was just a little too long to be meeting A-list celebs in a hotel room, so I decided to do it myself. At 5am. In our downstairs loo. Just before getting the Eurostar. With my nail scissors. And LET ME TELL YOU – Never. Again.

Fringe is not quite even.

So when we went into lockdown in March last year (was it last year? Or was it at THE BEGINNING OF TIME?!) my fringe went into lockdown too. At first I would just squint through the stray strands, there wasn’t much to look at anyway, sure, were we not LOCKED DOWN?! But then I got to the stage where I was close to taking an eye out with a brittle loose hair and I genuinely couldn’t do everyday things like make a cup of tea. So. I had to pin it back. I had a quiff. Often constructed using Aifric’s hair clips. Oh, whilst we’re here – let me tell you, I made a discovery about myself. I learnt that I have an unusually low number of Kirby grips for a woman in her mid-thirties.

My fringe became a thing I did on Instagram – What The Fringe (like What The F*CK… geddit?) – and to be honest, it got more interaction than any of my celeb interviews. It was a firm fave. Let’s face it, people weren’t doing much else than scrolling through their socials (put your hand up if you’ve got RSI in your right hand from all the scrolling… me me me! I like to call it The Lockdown Claw).

So, my fringe is a measure of lockdown for me. And clearly some others too (thanks for accompanying me on the fringe journey, chaps).

Fringe at the end of Lockdown 1.0

Just before we were released from Lockdown 1.0 had a call from my wonderful hairdresser as soon as she was able to re-open. She had been following my fringe story and she was ready to blue-light me in, full sirens, the works. A priority patient. I had an image of it – she and her team would all be PPE’d up to the max, I’d be stretchered in to a white tent, they obviously wouldn’t be able to see me through all the hair, like Cousin Itt from the Addams Family. There’d be some sharp intakes of breath, some anxious glances. Then they’d surround me – and with their hairdresser tool belts they’d get to work. It’d be the fringe version of E.T.

Honest to God, I am not sure I will ever forget that first haircut. It was freedom.

So here we are then. Lockdown 3.0. And What The Fringe is back. And I still have no Kirby grips. You’d have thought I’d have been more prepared this time, but look, it just takes me a while to get my head around things and I have left it too late. My fringe and I will see you in a month… or three.

Christmas Dinner 2020 – OH F*CK THIS ANYWAY.

This year was the first time we cooked our own Christmas dinner… thanks hugely (sarcasm) to COVID-19 Tier 4 life, it was just the three of us this year (two fairly fully-functioning adults and a three year old). We are not a big roast family. We have never really cooked one. BUT we had planned to go the whole hog with Christmas. Full-on Christmas roast dinner with all the trimmings / sides that you could possibly imagine. Before I get into the nitty-gritty of it all, I would like to point out that whilst we aren’t Michelin starred chefs, both of us are able to cook, and a recipe does not really faze us. We are happy to try things out, give everything a go. I think this is an important point because…

… and let’s be transparent here. A Christmas dinner is different. VERY different.

And what I have discovered is that it’s not worth it.

A Christmas dinner requires patience like no other. Calmness like no other. Timing like no other.

Here are 10 things I have learnt from cooking our first Christmas dinner.`

  • Number 1. You must not fall out with your comrade. However difficult it gets; however hot, steamy, tense and testy the nightmare; however desperately you want to just shout at the top of your lungs ‘OH F*CK THIS ANYWAY’, you must remain united as one. At no point whatsoever can you let your guard down. Do not let the food hear or see that you are scared. Very scared. Keep your voice steady, on an even level at all times. Even when you are saying ‘but we haven’t got a pan left to heat the BLOODY BREAD SAUCE’ – say it in a really positive sing-song way. Maybe even add a ‘darling’ and a little laugh at the end. Because as soon as that food hears the fear in your voice and senses that it’s close to breaking you, it’ll react. The pigs in blankets are the worst for this I have learnt. Those most precious and fragile of sides hear one quiver in your voice, one little fault, one break in your steady stream of positivity and the bacon unfurls from those sausages and you will be left with sad pasty naked little things with mini bacon ringlets on the side that you have to try to repair whilst mentally shouting ‘OH F*CK THIS ANYWAY’.
  • Number 2. If Jamie Oliver encourages you to fry some sage leaves ‘until crispy’ in a pan to ‘sprinkle’ on top of your soup which merely just a STARTER in this mad charade, don’t. Honestly, it’s really not worth it. It’s a starter. No-one cares. It’s literally there to prevent in-fighting due to hunger whilst you try to juggle the drama in the kitchen. And if you do decide to crisp up those sage leaves, do not leave them alone in the pan for even one second. Even if your three year old daughter comes to the kitchen door, distraught that her father paused ‘Zog and the Flying Doctors’ so she could sit at the table and have a nice meal with her family, tears streaming down her face, DO NOT leave those sage leaves. Let her cry. Because if you do tend to your weepy three year old, that oil will burn, your kitchen will fill with smoke and you will be left with no choice but to open the kitchen window and allow the cool December Christmas air to fill the room, chilling the turkey joint your husband has so lovingly basted for the last hour and a half. And you’ll think to yourself: ‘OH F*CK THIS ANYWAY’.
  • Number 3. Don’t worry about cooking anything that your aforementioned three year old can eat. She won’t. She’ll think the soup starter with your burnt sage leaves was her dinner, eat three spoons of it and spend the next hour sitting on the floor playing with her Paw Patrol cars whilst you try to convince and cajole her to join you at the table whilst secretly thinking ‘OH F*CK THIS ANYWAY’. Then, after you’ve finished your dinner she’ll ask for a slice of toast, some grapes and a Frube and you’ll think once more… ‘OH F*CK THIS ANYWAY’.
  • Number 4. How the hell do you do it all in just one oven?
  • Number 5. How the hell do you do it all on just one hob?
  • Number 6. Everything tastes the same. Once you put everything in you mouth it all tastes the bloody same however long you slaved over it. Which is mightily disheartening and you’ll think to yourself ‘OH F*CK THIS ANYWAY’.
  • Number 7. If you haven’t got 12 serving dishes, don’t even bother. Don’t start cooking. In fact, don’t even buy things to cook. I have now learnt always ALWAYS count your serving dishes before working out how many sides you can invite to the table. Eat only what you can serve. Otherwise you will be serving your creamed spinach and cranberry sauce from your three years old’s plastic brightly coloured bowls.
  • Number 8. Same with serving spoons. If you can’t lift it onto your plate using an implement that can contain a normal sized serving of food and doesn’t have a farmyard animal on it, don’t even bother.
  • Number 9. Tidying up is an absolute insanity. If you really think about this before you start, you won’t start and you won’t think approx. 4,385 times throughout the entire experience ‘OH F*CK THIS ANYWAY’ and everyone will just be happier. You’ll enjoy a delightful plate of beans on toast, splashing out on a grated cheese topping. The washing up will be non-existent, you won’t lose your wedding and engagement rings in a box of Heroes and you won’t go to bed feeling like there is turkey fat coming out of your eyeballs.
  • Number 10. ‘OH F*CK THIS ANYWAY’

The Grand High Witch is coming…

Have you ever walked out of a film? Got up and left a cinema because you simply couldn’t endure any more? I have. And I was five years old. How’s that for showing your opinion on popular culture? Letting the rest of the audience know you’re no fool. You’re a free agent and can come and go as you please, with a hair flick and a flounce. But (almost) thirty years later doing that is now something that makes me feel very nervous. For a few reasons. Mainly because I don’t like that feeling of not finishing something. Like when you leave a bit of tea at the bottom of your mug – you haven’t had that final satisfying swig so you end up feeling a bit incomplete and discombobulated all day… until you have another cup and can finish the damn thing and move on with your life (or sometimes finish the old, cold mug of tea, with that white skin on the top, just to get rid of it. Sure). I have heard there are some people who walk out of a show at the theatre at the interval. Good God. The stress and sadness of knowing people would be on stage performing to empty-seats is enough to keep me there until the theatre staff are locking up. So when a friend asked me recently if I have ever left the cinema before a film has finished I couldn’t immediately think of a time that had happened… but then I remembered. I thought about every single movie I have sat through over the years – that I have endured, and then I remembered that there is only one film that had me walk – nay, RUN – from my seat in horror. And that was Roald Dahl’s The Witches back in 1990 with the utterly terrifying and scarily convincing Anjelica Huston as the Grand High Witch.

My mum took my brother and I to the Fairfield Halls in Croydon on a Saturday morning. They often showed children’s movies on a Saturday morning… you know the way it went, appease your kids with a film and then take them around Allders choosing curtains (if you know, YOU KNOW. RIP Allders).

I am not sure how long the three of us lasted in that auditorium. Or who it was out of my brother and I who had the first breakdown (maybe it was my Mum, it’s anyone’s guess). But I vividly remember my mother gathering us both up and fleeing from the cinema in a cloud of anger, panic, horror and upset. I am trying to remember now at what part she (or we) had decided enough was enough. To be honest, having seen that film of late, it could have been any moment from the first 5 seconds on.

And I believe that was the first and last time we watched The Witches as children. It was almost like it was one of those things that was just banned in our house. No-one said it was banned, we just never spoke about it. Ever. God only knows if we made it to Allders after. Maybe to Joshua’s Tea Room (on the ground floor. Again, if you know, YOU KNOW). Probably so my Ma could have the strongest coffee known to humankind (hopefully laced with something even stronger) whilst her two kids sat shellshocked, rocking from side-to-side.

A good few years ago now, Before Children and Before Covid (what I like to call the double BC) when we could go out drinking without worrying about getting home in time to release the grandparents or when we could party long past 10pm and have friends to STAY, stumbling home to waste away the midnight hours chatting, drinking and watching movies, knowing that the next day expected nothing from us apart from working out who was going to make the first round of tea, we went out with some friends. After a fair amount of gin, we left the bar with loud discussions of what movie we were going to consume drunkenly on the sofa when we got back… and it was to decided that we would give 1990s The Witches a go. The only film in my history that made me turn on my CICA trainers (my God, do you remember those?!) and never look back. So, we watched this film at about 2 in the morning, and I think I was as terrified as I was when my mother had to extract me from a cinema in the last millennium. It may have been the gin, but I think it was actually the fact that the film is just bloody scary. It’s a film about real life witches. REAL LIFE WITCHES. With no toes, and no hair and no fingers who turn kids into mice. WTF guys. WTF. And this is from someone who has had to watch a lot of terrifying movies in this career. Films where people are locked in cages; aliens grow inside your brains; ghosts appear on top of wardrobes and all sorts of nonsense.

And so now, with only a few days to go, we have a new version of Mr Dahl’s book re-imagined by Robert Zemeckis… And you know what? I am excited. I am genuinely really excited about what this will be like. Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, Stanley Tucci – it’s a great cast and I have watched the trailer about 4 times now without those early 1990s memories haunting me. I am committed to the scares, I am up for the horror.

But hey – am I going to let my daughter watch it with me? Hell no. This is a strict 9pm watershed watch and make no mistake about it. The lights will be on. And I will not be watching it alone. Sorry Simon babes, but luckily you watched the other one with me so recently that you’ll have good chat to compare notes at the end. I’ll pour you a gin.

If it’s dull in colour, quiet in sound and has no flashy parts…

…then it’s the PERFECT toy.

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We recently bought Aifric a toy box. Up until that point, her toys lived on top of the playmat she used (and loved) when she was a tiny baby, which in turn lived on top of the footstool. It was a dazzling focal point of our living room. And whilst OF COURSE we appreciated the bright colours of the jungle in our direct eyeline when trying to enjoy an episode of Parks and Recreation each evening, we were getting to the stage where we were ready for our living room to become (a little bit) ours again.

But I now sometimes wonder, if the toys just stayed in that toy box, and never ever came out again, would Aifric notice?*

It doesn’t seem to matter how many flashing, shiny, all-singing, all-dancing, jumping, moving, colourful toys we buy her… the ‘non toys’ for lack of another word (someone help me out here), are the MOST fun. And obviously, the MOST dangerous. Hence, the most fun. The investigative finger wants to explore and discover. The mouth wants to taste and lick. And Mummy wants a pair of eyes not only in the back of her head, but in both sides too please.

Here are 12 things which seem to provide the most thrill to our little explorer:

  1. Radiator knobs: can’t quite put my finger on what is so utterly fabulous about these yet. Will try to come back to you on that at some point. We haven’t put our heating on (even though we are nearing the end of October) but when we do, WELL, then Aifric will really be in control – as we either bake or freeze with each turn of the knob – it’s heating roulette. IMG_9947-2
  2. The corner-protectors on the coffee table: Aifric likes to pull these off and either present her prize to me with glee or put it in her mouth and carry it around the living room with great care like a golden retriever collecting eggs. I’ll often find a soggy plastic cube under the dining table.
  3. The nappy bin: I have nothing to say about this. WHY of ALL the things you could play with, would you go to that? IMG_9539-2
  4. The box we keep all our screwdrivers and screws in: a box of shiny things! Babe, if you want a box of fun things to go through I can give you lots of options – find my jewellery box (sidenote: please do not find that, because that’s just another thing to worry about and also, you could swallow something and we’d be in a whole world of trouble). But a box of screwdrivers and screws? Unless you are Ron from aforementioned Parks & Rec, just tell me WHAT is so breathtaking about those?
  5. Hinges: I actually can’t write about these without feeling sick in the pit of my stomach… Aifric likes to run her investigative finger over each screw in the hinge of our doors. It causes me great worry. I have tried to explain to her on numerous occasions why we don’t like hinges and why they are dangerous… and if anything, those conversations just spur her on.
  6. Door stops: I can’t yet work out what Aifric finds so appealing about these… maybe it’s the yelp I give when I see she has removed one from the bottom of a door and I watch the door close on her in slow motion as I throw myself in the way. IMG_9652-3
  7. The washing machine: an exception to the rule – this is not quiet. I can sort-of get on board with the mesmeric motion of the washing machine, and the suds and the noise. So she can have that one. IMG_0326-2
  8. Kitchen drawers: Aifric likes to use these as her own personal gym, practicing for iron-baby, it’s how she gets her daily pull-ups in. FullSizeRender-3
  9. Plugs: literally the most boring thing that I could think of to play with, Aifric initially strokes them with a considerate hello, then when she has them under her spell and lured them into a false sense of security, she tries to jam her investigative finger into their holes.
  10. The stools at our kitchen counter: you wouldn’t think a person of her size and strength couldn’t pull them over. But oh, she can. The iron baby training has worked. And… SURPRISE! Suddenly I was catching a stool as it fell onto her in slow motion. Yes, we both got a shock when that happened.
  11. The bathroom scales: these are glass. Aifric attempts to show us how ready she is for iron-baby by trying to pick them up.
  12. The clothes horse: it doesn’t matter whether this is up or away – Aifric will make a game from it. If it’s away – then pulling it out from under the sofa is an excellent game. If it’s up – then sitting under it and pulling the washing off is also an excellent game. IMG_9623

 

It’s a daily battle – Aifric vs Our Home; Aifric vs Me.

In the meantime I continue to get all of her toys out of the toy box each morning and I continue to put them away again each night. Your sympathy is appreciated.

 

*Obvs I know she is interested in her toys, I am messing

**Photo: a range of photos showing our explorer

If it’s in your arsenal…

… is it ok to use the boobs as a comforter?

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Aifric woke up at 1am a couple of days ago and instead of the usual rigmarole of swaying her, rocking her, sitting on her chair, singing 10 green bottles, singing hello to the sun, singing 10 sizzling sausages, lying on the floor with my hand in the cot and ninja-ing my way out of the room only for her to notice I had disappeared and cry again, I just decided to stick her straight on the boob and she was back asleep in less time than a Ewan the Dream Sheep circuit (15 minutes FYI).

But for some reason, in my head, it’s not something I had wanted to do. If she wasn’t hungry then surely I should and I would be able to get her back to sleep another way. Even if that way took an hour and a half. EVEN IF after an hour and a half of the swaying and the rocking and the singing and the lying on the floor I’d just end up putting her back on the boob anyway and EVEN IF I know that always works, AT LEAST I HAD TRIED ANOTHER WAY.

Forget the fact we’d both be shattered the next day. And a little irritable. With matching bags under our eyes, that you could, if you kinda squinted a little, call ‘cute’.

I guess in my head I am worried that Aifric will get used to needing the boob to go back to sleep and that I’ll get used to it… it’ll be an ‘easy way out’. HA, AN EASY WAY OUT. Isn’t that what we’re all looking for in parenthood anyway?!

My other concern – linked to the above concern – is that the boob isn’t going to be around forever for Aifric. I have already cut a couple down and moved onto the bottle. One day… pretty soon… I’ll have them back. And then what? We really will need to find another way to comfort her and get her back to sleep.

I actually had a conversation about this with a woman I bumped into at the park on the weekend. She was in the same boat – her little boy not sleeping at all (I thanked all of my lucky stars that it is only once in a while with A) – and she said she does it too, it’s easier, and she needs to sleep and he needs to sleep so WHAT ARE YA GONNA DO? She actually used the phrase ‘don’t worry, you’re not alone’. Which has to be the most comforting phrase you’ll ever hear as a parent.

Simon is super chill about it – if we can use them, why not use them? The rational voice of a person who does not want to be up for two hours in the middle of the night. Who wants to be bright and breezy the next day. Who enjoys sleeping. And enjoys their baby sleeping.

So I am in this limbo-land. I am in two minds. As I mentioned – I did ‘crack’ the other day. And it did work. And we both did get back to sleep within 15 minutes. And I didn’t count the number of times I had pressed Ewan’s paw (do sheep have paws? Hoof. It’s a hoof. Typing out loud here. Hooooves) to try to work out how many lots of 15 minutes I had been in her room… willing and praying her to go back to sleep. And I didn’t have to ninja my way out of the room, pretending I have a black belt in karate (that’d be cool). And you know what? I have done it again since.

I suppose there is no ending to this blog piece… like many things in parenthood, I am not sure what is right. What did you do? What would you do? What are you doing? Do you bottle feed and do this with a bottle?

Comments on a postcard. Please and thank you.

*PHOTO: the little munchkin not sleeping – and there I am – me, not sleeping either, lying on the floor next to the cot, willing Aifric to sleep

10 things I no longer care about…

… now I have a baby.

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I was thinking the other day, about how my life has changed since Aifric was born. Obviously EVERYTHING has changed. Sure. But in my day-to-day existence what little things do I still care about and what things do I now no longer give a flying monkey sh*t about? I think it’s when I looked in the mirror and saw the state of my eyebrows that I started thinking about this.

There are some things that I will always ALWAYS care about but when writing these two lists, I couldn’t really remember what they are.

10 things I no longer care about…

  1. The state of my eyebrows – sorry pals, it’s true, this is how I am now, deal with it
  2. What goes in the dishwasher – apart from the Tefal frying pan, it’s a ‘free-for-all, chuck it in, hope for the best, we’ll just buy new… whatever if we need to’ kinda vibe
  3. The number of calories in wine – no explanation needed
  4. What glass I drink my gin from – literally any receptacle will do. No. That’s a lie. I will not take it from a thimble. Recently, a pal measured out our gin using the top of her baby’s bottle (the lid can hold up to 50ml). THAT is what I call ‘living the motherhood dream’ my friends
  5. Folding clothes back up beautifully when returning them. Can’t believe I used to do this but I always thought it would help the person at the other end if I folded them nicely. Sorry ASOS, the clothes are just going back in the bag… still folded obvs – GOD, I’M NOT AN ANIMAL – but not ‘shop ready’ folded
  6. Wearing paired socks – there is no time to be wasted on searching for socks that match. Get ’em on, get out the house
  7. Whether you can see my bra – any part of it. Nursing bras are huge, no top can cover them completely, why even waste precious minutes trying?
  8. What milk I use in my tea. Used to always be skimmed. Now I’ll just take it how it comes. Which is never hot but tea is tea chaps and it’s goooood
  9. Wearing shorts in London. These were always ‘holiday only’ attire. Heatwave guys, we’re in a heatwave incase you’re not aware
  10. Whether items of clothing are hung in my side of the wardrobe or Simon’s. It’s a mish-mash now. Neither of us know where anything is. Simon addressed the chaos a couple of days ago. To be fair to him – he’s been patient with it for 8.5 months. To be fair to me – I had a baby. That is the best Top Trumps card you’ll ever get your hands on

 

10 things I still care about…

  1. The state of my fringe
  2. The length of my nails
  3. The number on the volume of the TV – although I must admit I am caring less and less about this
  4. Whether our bed is made up. Messy bed, messy head pals!

So. Turns out that Motherhood and #MatLeaveLife = actually don’t care about so much. Can’t even get to number 5 on the ’10 things I still care about’ list.

I am sure more things that I NO LONGER CARE ABOUT will come up. I’ll keep you posted.

*PHOTOS: semi-beautifully made bed that the little one likes to roll around on. Yes those are my pjs just hanging out on the pillow. REALITY.

Is there space for homesickness…

… when you have a baby?

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I suffer from homesickness when I’m away. I know some people may find that strange at the age of 32, but I do, and I can’t help it. I know when it’s coming, like a grey cloud, and I know that it could be a fleeting feeling or it could hang around for a couple of hours, max. I know that once it passes I’ll be fine again and will still be delighted to be away. But whilst it’s here, I don’t want to be anywhere but home.

I remember the first time I tried to really properly explain it to Simon. We had just checked into a motel room in Monterey, California. We’d been away for over a week at that point, doing an amazing road trip down the west coast of America, seeing some incredible, breathtaking scenery, eating great food, meeting lovely people – having a brilliant adventure. But suddenly I didn’t want to be anywhere but home. I wanted a cup of tea and my bed and my things and familiar smells. And my famalam and my friends. I wanted Simon too, of course, but just to be back home with me. It didn’t mean that I didn’t want to be with him or that I wasn’t having the most terrific holiday. I just, in that moment, wanted to be home.

I think it’s hard to understand if you don’t get it because being on holiday is supposed to be fun and relaxing and adventurous. An escape from normal life – knowing that your normal life is still there, waiting for you back home but that you are getting a little break from it. I still get those feels. I just get the homesick feels too. It happens most holidays for me at some point. I know it will pass but when I’m in it, it can be a little claustrophobic. I think our honeymoon was the only one where it didn’t appear, as I distinctly remember thinking – wow! I haven’t missed home on this trip!

So we’ve just come back from our first family holiday as a three. And I have to say – I got those feels. The homesick ones. We’d been having a marvellous time – swimming in the sea, eating cinnamon buns, drinking coffee, laughing, reminiscing, catching up, and having proper chats that weren’t centred around whether the bottles and pump had been sterilised and how many poos Aifric had done that day (obvs we still spoke about the poos because, c’mon lads, we’re only human… but we spoke about other stuff too).

I sent Simon off to the spa and said I’d get Aifric down for her nap. We were in a new place, she was a little out of sorts and on this occasion she needed rocking to sleep. And that’s when I felt it arrive, my homesickness. And with it, a thought. As I’m cradling my 8 month old daughter: I don’t know if there is space for homesickness and a baby.

I am the adult now. The responsible one. The grown up. And I am home to Aifric. Wherever we are, we represent home and comfort and love and stability for this little thing. It doesn’t matter if we’re in a new place and the smells are unfamiliar and the noises are unfamiliar and everything is out of sorts, because we’re there. And we represent home to her. And that’s all that matters.

So maybe there isn’t space for homesickness anymore. Certainly not my homesickness. Can I allow myself to yearn for home and my creature comforts when someone else needs that reassurance? Is there space for two of us to be crying for home? Plus I just don’t think Simon could deal. It’d be like when I stubbed my little toe and broke it at the exact same time that Aifric started crying for her nap and the Ocado man rang the bell with an enormous shop. Simon had to make a choice as to who to attend to first.

I think I will probably still feel homesick on occasions when we’re away. I think it’s in me that I love the normality, reliability and reassurance that ‘home’ provides – whatever that may be. But now I have someone else to worry about and to comfort. I have to provide that ‘normality, reliability and reassurance’ to someone else. I have to be that. So I can welcome it, accept it and acknowledge it when it arrives – appreciate that it is a real thing and I can allow the feelings to come and to pass. Aifric has given me a little perspective, on what home is and what it should be. Maybe when I get the feels and recognise they’re here, I can then give homesickness a bit of the cold shoulder. And say – hey old friend, nice to see you again but we’re done.

*PHOTO: Us as a famalam of three on our first holiday together.

It’s been a while since I wrote a piece…

… because life just seems to get in the way.

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I was super excited when I set up my blog Not-So-Showbiz Mum. I was all:

‘This is going to be great! I’m going to keep up my journalism skills so when I go back to work I won’t be rusty. I’m going to be all creative. I’m going to write about things that matter to me. I’m going to write about how different my life is now I’ve got a babe. I’m going to write about the great times. I’m going to write about the difficult times. I’m going to write about the in-between times. Hopefully other people will read it and get some comfort from it or get some lols from it or just enjoy it for what it is. Also maybe it’ll make me feel better about not replying to people in my new mum-haze as they can all just read this like some sort of weird public family newsletter. I’ll put Aifric down for a nap, pour a cup of coffee and write. Oooh maybe I’ll be like those people on Instagram who are all super chill with their flat whites and laptops/iPads in coffee shop gardens wearing the newest trends with their baby’s feet sticking into the corner of the photograph.’

Hahahahahahahahaha Faye.

Oh Faye.

Faye Faye Faye Faye Faye.

Come here for a cuddle.

Because you know why I haven’t written for a while?! Because, life pals. LIFE.

Let’s talk about what happens when Aifric does go down for a nap, shall we?

Well. First of all it’s an absolute race against the clock, Crystal Maze styleeee. Because who knows when Sleeping Beauty will wake from her slumber. So each day I have to prioritise what jobs to do first – what HAS to be completed and what can wait – and how quickly I can do them…

Cleaning up her breakfast / lunch. One day I decided that I’d do this after expressing and showering. FYI Weetabix and broccoli stick, guys. They stick fast and they stick hard. Do them later, do them at your peril. Because there is nothing that shouts FUN PARENT LIFE like getting down on your hands and knees and scrubbing them off your kitchen floor.

Expressing. This has to happen. It’s a priority. Aifric has one boob in the morning now she’s on solids. And we use the other boob for half of her evening milk. Sometimes I do wonder if all I spend my day doing is preparing meals for Aifric. Girl’s gotta eat. (In the heatwave she’s having two boobs and the time it has freed up for me in not having to express… JOY)

Showering. Again. This has to happen. 99% of the time it’s during nap one. 1% of the time it’s during nap two. 100% of the time I hear fictional crying whilst washing my hair. I often leap out of the shower in a suddy mess, dripping everywhere, just to check the monitor. Fictional crying… and the sound of her dumper truck or train – the tunes of both are embedded into my brain. ‘Screwdriver!’ ‘Put the rocks into the hole!’ ‘Chug-a-chug-a-choo-choo. Chug-a-chug-a-choo-choo. Here. We. Goooooo.’

Tidying the kitchen. If I can get this done, it’s ideal. Because it then sets us up for the rest of the day.

Preparing Aifric’s lunch. Needs to be done, ideally before she wakes up so it is ready. We’re doing majority baby led weaning with some purées / pouches. But this does mean courgettes and sweet potatoes need to be roasted (OMG having the oven on in the heatwave makes me want to put my head in the freezer) and broccoli needs to be boiled.

Making a coffee. Can be done whilst other things are being done. Multitasking my friends, multitasking. It’s an absolute necessity and there is no getting around it.

Having breakfast. Not sure if you have experienced me without food. I could take this moment now to issue a public apology to those who have.

Making the bed. Now I have bought us some fancy bed cushions (superfluous bed cushions), I like our bed made up a certain way (sorry for the direction you got this morning on that Simon!). And when the bed is made, the day feels like it can start.

Washing. It’d be great to get a wash on when she’s snoozing. You know what’s even greater? Getting a wash on and getting it out during one nap. Living. The. Dream.

Pelvic floor exercises. These take 15 minutes. They need to be done. But that’s 15 minutes when I could be doing all of the above. As I am no longer numero uno, they go to the back of the queue. Don’t tell my physio. Please.

Nothing. Sometimes I’d like a breather for 5 minutes just to do nothing.

And all this has to be done whilst she’s snoozing. She could wake at any time. Sometimes she stirs and I hold my breath and stand as still as a statue. As if she can sense any movement through the camera and monitor. I swear they can.

So chaps, I’d love to be sitting down writing to you all, but the above, ALL OF THE ABOVE, has to be completed first. How the bloody hell do others do it?!

Oh and also. There’s Love Island on catch-up to fit in now too. I never stood a chance.

*PHOTO: here we are, trying to get sh*t done.

It took me completely by surprise…

… when I had to tell a woman that she should be supporting other women.

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It’s funny – I had been totally preparing for one situation when suddenly out of nowhere, I was confronted by something else.

I have been lucky enough to be able to breastfeed Aifric – it was a hard slog, we were using nipple shields for the first 13 weeks of her life but we got there. But I know that it doesn’t work for everyone and I am appreciative that it worked for us. Whenever I have been feeding her out in public, I have always been 8.5% on edge, expecting someone to say something negative to me about it. Probably because one of my dear friends had that very unpleasant experience herself. I hadn’t worked out in my head if I’d launch into a tirade about how it is 2018 and that view is archaic and oppressive. Or whether I’d try to be super chill about it – all like ‘ok cool, think what you like, I don’t care, it’s your issue’ and then imitate the whatever emoji.

But what I didn’t anticipate – was that I would have to launch into my tirade because of the speed at which I change my baby’s nappy.

So, sit down a moment, let me tell you a quick (don’t you worry, I know time is precious) story…

Last week I broke my phone (it was under the oven glove and slid onto the floor as I lifted the glove to use it. Honestly. Could have screamed into a tea towel). So I booked an appointment at an Apple store to have it fixed and off we went into town. Aifric – ever the exhibitionist – was showing off her ‘standing’ to the Apple man. Suddenly her face became really red. Her eyes started to water. She was concentrating very hard. I knew what tricks she was up to. And I could smell what tricks she was up to. I distracted the man with my wit and my charm and bundled her back into the buggy to try to keep the smell localised. Whilst discussing email receipts and what-not, I was mentally working out where was the nearest place I could change her. Got it. Pret on Shaftesbury Avenue. Off I wheeled the disgraced little madam.

I got us set up in the toilet – everything ready as if I was about to undertake an operation. Lucky I did – as what had been contained at Apple, had now escaped at Pret. Aifric’s started on solids now BTW. Not fully established but started on them. Make of that what you will but I was in for a TREAT. A full outfit change was needed. So I began.

A knock on the door. ‘Hello? Is someone in there?’

Crikey, I’d only been in there a couple of minutes. ‘Yes that’s right, I’m in here.’

‘Ok, good. Just checking.’

A few minutes later. ‘Hello? HELLO??’

A different voice.

I thought to myself – what on earth is going on here? So I opened the door mid-change to see a pretty impatient American woman standing outside. I said – ‘I’ve only just come in here, I am changing my baby.’

‘Well, I changed my babies fast.’

Honest to God. Red rag to a bull. I lost it.

‘OK. Well, she’s done a poo. I am a new mum. You are a WOMAN. Women should SUPPORT other women.’

(I don’t know if you can call someone with a 6 month old a new mum but I still class myself as one, on many occasions I feel like one, and anyway, it doesn’t matter how far down the line we are, does it?)

She said – ‘well I need to use the bathroom and this is the only one.’

‘Ok cool. You’ll need to find another one then.’ WHATEVER EMOJI.

Honest. To. God.

Did she think I was taking my leisurely time in a tiny hot public toilet with poo all over Aifric’s trousers for the sheer utter joy of it? Yeah sure, having the absolute time of my life here love.

WHERE IS THE SISTERHOOD?!

Where was the – oh no worries at all, totally understand, good luck!

Where was the – oh goodness, we’ve all been there, completely understand.

Also. What if I was just taking a while to go to the loo? Maybe I was doing a big poo? Or having period drama. Or changing. Or had just had a row with someone and wanted a little cry. Or perhaps I just wanted 5 minutes of peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of London life and people like her?

‘Well, I changed my babies fast.’

THAT is exactly the sort of comment that could really send a new fragile mum over the edge. And I absolutely won’t have it. Not on my watch.

 

*PHOTO: Changing Aifric on a changing table when she was much much younger. Turns out I haven’t taken a photo of her on a changing table for a while. Probably because people like this woman are all up in my grill and not letting me mess about in public toilets which obviously I LOVE doing.

I am not sure I can be a good Mum and…

… have a (justified) extreme fear of wasps.

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The realisation came to me on a Hen Do (another post for another time). I am still breast-feeding Aifric so time away from her means I still have to pump to keep up the flow and also to prevent me leaking onto strangers. Which is a thing that can actually happen. It’s not cool.

We’d just completed our Spice Girls dance class (we were excellent FYI and as a group of 18 women, we WILL be the Next Big Thing) and I was due to pump. So out they (the boobs) popped straight into the pre-prepared pump (no way was I going to waste any time putting all that together when I could be guzzling gin).

It was a warm day in Bath – the bedroom was hot. We opened a few windows. There was a breeze. Life felt pretty sweet (apart from the fact my boobs were being dragged and compressed into a tiny little funnel and my friends were chatting over the incessent hum of the pumping machine). Suddenly, out of nowhere (actually it was just through the window but I like that phrase for suspense), came a giant wasp. It flew in the window and headed straight for my vulnerable, restricted, milky boobs.

‘Oh my God, oh my God, get it away, what I am going to do, oh my God, OH MY GOD, please someone help, OH MY F**KING GOD’

Now. If you have used a double breast pump before, you’ll know that unless you have one of those magic bras with holes in them, your hands are holding both pumps and you cannot do anything else but sit there, boobs out, defenceless. So there I was, top down to my waist, holding my two bottles of milk, machine contentedly humming away, boobs oblivious of the unfolding drama.

My good friend Katherine leapt to attention and jumped in between me and the wasp, as a human barricade to protect my sweet nectar (and me). She began a little dance moving back and forth as the wasp did, whilst I just sat there barking orders – ‘left, right, right, right, left, it’s going to the left, oh my God it’s coming for me, left left, Katherine, thank you, oh my God, it’s close, it’s getting close’ – like a peculiar game in the Crystal Maze.

This couldn’t go on. I’d have to stop the pumping. Hurriedly I detached myself from the pump – boobs hanging dejectedly in a ‘WTF woman?!’ pose. And I jumped over the pumps to cower by the door.

In comes another friend – bear in mind now, there is now just ONE wasp and THREE humans in this room. Mellissa is super chill. Over she goes to the window, and between her and Katherine they usher the wasp to the window. It’s now got itself stuck down the gap in between the sash windows (it was a LUSH hen do house). Meanwhile I have clocked that my bottles full of breastmilk are just standing precariously on the carpet – where I haphazardly placed them in order to get away from my waspy assailant – very very close to where Melonator and KG were at work.

So now I begin shouting once more – from the corner where I am crouching – ‘guys, guys, GUYS! my breastmilk! please be careful of my breastmilk – oh my God – I need that milk, please don’t knock it over, oh my God, guys, GUYS, the WASP!’

In true superhero style, they extracted the wasp and released it back into the wild. My heart rate went down and I slowly walked over to my bottles and the pump, and resumed my position. The bride walked in – ‘hiiii guys!’ – with no idea of what drama had just occurred.

But. BUT. What will I do if I am with Aifric? Will I be able to put her before my fear of wasps? Will I be able to stand between her and the wasp as my dear pal Katherine did for me?

We were nearly tested on this when walking back from the weigh-in (Aifric’s, not mine. Please. One drama is enough) when a wasp flew in my direction – I did what I normally do – close my eyes. If I close my eyes, I can’t see it and it’s not real. I closed my eyes. I ducked low and I pushed the buggy really really fast.

We survived. But they’ll be back. It’s only May. There is a long, long (ha! It’s England. Again – please) summer ahead of us.

*PHOTO: Aifric hanging out in summer aka WASP SEASON

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