Thank you, Jo Cox

Becoming a parent is like being hit by a freight train: it whisks you away from everything that is familiar- your work, friends, social life- and leaves you gasping and disorientated. Friendship is what gets you back in your feet again. 

Since moving from a tight-knit community to a small market town, I have struggled to make friends. I think they can smell my desperation at the school gates so no one meets my rabid smile. The man in One Stop is nice to me and I chat with the postman but I would say the butcher is probably my main regular contact in the town and I don’t think he knows my name. 

I saw a poster at the GP surgery (one of the loneliest places in the world for a new parent) advertising a Chat and Play session at our local Children’s Centre and something about the wording spoke to me. 

I had a whacking long list of jobs to do but I have felt the low-level hum of loneliness for a while. I miss not having someone to text and say ‘I’m off to the park in five mins -fancy coming too?’  It feels like an age since someone knocked on my door because they were passing. I really miss knowing my neighbours’ names. I blame growing up in a small village of busy-bodies for my need for a network of people. 

Anyway. It took a lot for me to go to this session. I felt deeply self-conscious and a bit tearful and silly. 

I nearly bolted when I got there. I was the only one with a child over a year old.  I even went to the sign-in sheet and said, with a watery lump of shame in my throat: ‘Sorry, I think I’ve misjudged this’. 

Then more and more women came in. Some with babies. Some with older children. And I said, out loud, to a room full of women I didn’t know, ‘I feel really lonely at the moment. I feel like I’ve slipped through the cracks and I’m the only one’ 
I have a great network of friends. Loyal, clever, kind and hilarious women who would do, and have done, anything for me. I am utterly grateful for them. However, you need friends who’ve got children the same age as yours. It’s oddly vital to socialising on weekdays: my friend who doesn’t work on Fridays doesn’t want to come to soft play on her day off now her kids are at school. Who would?!

So today I said all this out loud to a room full of strangers and four of them looked right back at me and said ‘I understand’ 

The lovely staff there suggested a regular meet up. What about the local garden centre? They’re looking to reach out to the community, aren’t they? What about applying for a grant from the Council? That way you could make some fliers and spead the word, couldn’t you?

So that’s what we did. We murbled our way through a round of Wheels on the Bus, put our shoes back on, wrestled the kids in to their coats and bobble hats and, there and then, five of us went straight to the local garden centre cafe. 

After a couple of rounds of coffee and cake and a meeting with the manager we set a regular time and date and founded ourselves a new group. 

It felt really, really good and it wasn’t even midday yet!

So thank you, Jo Cox Foundation. Thank you for getting a room full of women together and allowing us to use the ‘L’ word without shame. Thank you for helping me find other people who get it: I already feel far less alone. 

We are meeting at Roots Cafe at Wymondham Baptist Church at 10am on Friday mornings. We will be there next week (1st December) and the cake portions are generous so why not come along? 

We Got This: a roaring (with laughter) success

I bloody love living in Norfolk, but sometimes I get a bit miffed that no one else seems to notice us. All those bloggers, vloggers and buggers seem to be meeting, lunching and launching in Bristol, Birmingham, Brighton and, err, London. Meanwhile, we’re out here with our newly-built, under-utilised dual carriage way just waiting for  someone to swing by and drop some culture/couture/credibility on us. *

But they never do. 

Enter Emma. She has founded We Got This (Sometimes) in Norwich. Last night was her launch event at Open in Norwich and Katie Kirby’s (aka Hurrah for Gin) book tour was her first event.

When tickets went on sale, you could almost hear the social media hum with excitement, you could feel the flurry of texts to babysitters and the scratching of family calendars being rewritten as pick ups, meal times and after school clubs are all rearranged and resolved: all the tell tale signs of a mum’s night out in the making.
And what a night.

My friend, Clare, and I met in the foyer at Open. It was already dark outside and we’d come straight from work which all added to the excitement and giggliness. Our tickets were zapped with efficiency and a smile and we were in.

Not much else gives me such a tummy flip of goodwill than walking in to a room full of women. I love feeling that sense of sisterhood and pride when there’s a get together of women all intent on acceptance, humour and a sense of freedom. 

The room was alive with women in their thirties who were delighted to be missing bath and bed for the night. There were stalls selling beauty products, cakes and stationery. Waterstones were there selling copies of the books. The bar was three-deep with women ordering plastic cups of g&ts. The coat-room -which was free!- was full of bags and coats as women broke free from the shackles of nappy bags and coat pockets full of half-eaten snacks.

A hush settled as we took our seats for Katie’s talk. Emma spoke first about upcoming events. Key Words: fashion & Erica Davies. Clare and I nudged each other and made mental notes to put dates in the diary.

Katie came on stage to whoops and cheers and what ensued was a conversation between her and Emma that was a Q&A of insightful questions and hilarious answers. Katie is a wordsmith of comedy genius and it was great fun to spend time in her company under the lovely hosting by Emma

As they were talking, I had a little peer around the room. It was rammed to the rafters with bright-eyed women, roaring with laughter and nodding in recognition of toddler anecdotes. I wanted all these women to be my friends and, last night, I felt like they were. 
Thank you, Emma, for a great night out and all your hard work. 

(Ooh, and THANK YOU for our goody bags of loveliness: I’m off to slug my tin of gin and toast the your success)

Bring on the next knees up!

*I remember over hearing two old boys discussing Norwich’s first Gay Pride: ‘That’s why we shouldn’t dual carriage-way the A11!’