New Name. New Study.

Spring has sprung, the bird has riz, at my new office, let’s have a squiz.*

*clearly the investment was worth it- that kind of creative genius doesn’t come cheap.

Plants and cabinet are Ikea. Excellent light up skull was from Lidl Halloween range. The plants on the Ikea wicker placemat are real and I have kept them alive since before Christmas. Brag.

Desk. Fake cheese plant. Real still-alive plant. Lamp. Chair. Spice racks. Boxes. All Ikea.

Left-hand print was a hashtag gift from my in-laws who bought it from Stratford-upon-Avon theatre. Right-hand painting is by my great grandpa and one of my most treasured possessions. Bullet journal by bullet journal if you’re thinking you need a new system to get organised with. Goal Digger mug by Coco Roses Apparel and hot chocolate is the Honeycomb flavour by Options and delicious.

Far left plant from Primark, right hand plant Ikea in a jug from Wymondham StarThrowers charity shop. Rainbow print by up and coming artist, William Oliver, botanical prints by the talented Brie Harrison. Paston Treasure print from Norwich castle shop. Drawers by Ikea. Squillion Lego pieces concealed in drawers by indulgent grandparents.

The Timeline of an Ill Child

5.30pm

Collect from nursery.

‘They’ve been a bit clingy today: needed lots of cuddles’

Right-o.

6.30pm

Rejects bedtime snack. Concern level flickers.

7pm

Child sweats during bedtime story. Child falls asleep huffing clammy metallic breath.

8pm

Nonchalantly ask about partner’s work day: ‘Got much on tomorrow? Busy?’

8.25pm

Pause Luther because you thought you heard footsteps upstairs. Is it a child…or a murderer?

8.26pm

Child. It’s a child. Sweating though their pyjamas and swaying on the top step.

8.27pm

Projectile vomit.

8.30pm

False hope: ‘it’s probably just because they’re tired- just an emotional vom. It’ll be fine’

8.32/8.36/8.41pm

Wretching in to the family sick bowl.

8.42pm

Calpol dispensing.

8.43pm

Calpol resurfacing.

8.50pm

Realisation dawns. Child cannot go to nursery tomorrow. Cue whispered hissings: I’ve got a full day tomorrow. Can’t you stay off? What about I do the morning then you come home at lunch?

8.55pm

Child lays sweatily on someone’s lap and Luther goes back on. No one is really watching. One of you is mentally recalculating their work day.

9.20pm

Ill child is asleep. Nominated parent carries child upstairs whilst other lays down towels,Calpol, glasses of water and plumps cushions and beggars off to the spare room.

Twenty five minute intervals throughout night

Wake. Sit bolt up right. Feel child’s forehead. Uncover hot child.

Wake. Sit bolt up right. Feel child’s cold limbs. Cover child.

Repeat.

6.10am

Child wakes sunny shiny and full of chat. Expect a debrief with any sibling or person present: ‘I be sick ALL night. I could see my raisins in it!’

Realise child is in rude good health but can’t in all good conscience send child to nursery…can you?…no…no, of course not.

7am-5pm

Watch CBeebies with ‘ill’ child whilst checking work emails and feeling guilty about not being there.

5.15pm

Sibling returns from school looking pasty. Feign sympathy and swallow a sick burp.

Fair play, respect and Bourbon biscuits to the parents doing sick days solo. May your immune systems be strong.

Under the Spell of St Paul’s Cathedral

It was William’s seventh birthday. He wanted a tour of St Paul’s Cathedral for his present. He’d learnt about it during a school project. He has the pop up book, the architecture dot to dot and the dates, names and details committed to memory. Farriner. Pepys. Wren. Parmesan cheese. Pudding Lane.

The morning was bright and fresh and clear and the seats at the top of the bus gave us a panoramic view of his favourite city.

We tipped out of the bus alongside the tourists and sightseers and as we rounded the corner St Paul’s rose in to view.

William’s face was luminous and solemn: like Christmas morning when he saw his stocking had been filled.

With his grandma and younger brother banished to the Museum or London, the rest of us regally climbed the steps up and in.

It is phenomenally beautiful. Breath-taking. Awe-inspiring. Vast. Everything you can imagine it to be.

It was still early and quiet so we went straight to the Whispering Gallery. Up and up the twisting staircase and out in to a great circle. We split up and sat at opposite sides and whispered sounds between us that rang like echoes in a seashell.

Higher and higher we climbed- electric with excitement. Up and up in single file – the adults following in the wake of William’s tense joy and out in to a storm of wind and sunshine on white stone.

And up again! Pushing through narrow staircases and trilling up spiral ones. Past cogs and cables and vast wooden beams as we slipped under the skin of the dome until we reached the top.

There’s Monument! Knock it down and it’ll land where the Great Fire started! There’s Tower Bridge! There’s the Cheese Grater and the Gherkin! And London Bridge where heads were displayed on spikes!Look! The whole vast city that you can adventure in or study in or eat delicious food in amidst your bright bright future.

And all of a sudden, the birthday blues hit. Right there at the top. A melancholy descended. That familiar rock in the stomach. Is it over? Is that it?

Did you know that the body of Christopher Wren is in the crypt here?

Down down down we flew!

We stopped in the cathedral alter and lay on our backs in the middle of a semi circle of tourist and worshippers. We lay on the cold brass and looked up to where we’d been- past the angels, the gilded cupids, through the whispers and up in to the shadow of the gold cross.

Then we went down to the crypt.

We saw Nelson’s monument, we bought and wrote a postcard. We drank delicious coffee. We marvelled at models of Old St Paul’s. We touched the toes of effigies blackened by the flames of 1666 which gave a thrill of history.

William was enthralled and keen to pay his admiration to Wren’s tomb only to find it was surrounded by a baptism so out of bounds for the morning- an oddly pleasing thought.

And then we had to go.

And the come down was swift and savage. Is that it? That was it? Is it over?

That feeling like the spell is broken and everything will be disappointing and average again.

But there was his granny Rose and grandpa Ben and the whole city of London to explore. And St Paul’s to watch over us.

Shameful Childhood Memories

 

I think it’s only fair that I share humiliating and excruciating moments from my childhood. It balances the score. It may even lay some ghosts to rest. 

Edition One: Fancy Dress

I despise fancy dress. I think it’s the Radley handbag of the party world: for people who lack imagination and humour. My absolute snobbery and vitriol is purely defensive. I have been humiliated once too often.

Sally White: aged 7

Mary in the village is having a birthday party. I never get invited to birthday parties because I am odd and have homemade bread sandwiches and don’t watch telly. But Mary is kind and has invited me and the theme is ‘Bright Colours’. My normal clothes are also homemade and corduroy. But on the morning of the party, my sister takes it upon herself to help dress me. I am wearing two pairs of tights- pink over white- and a skirt from the fancy dress box. And it’s sparkly! I have bright pink lips that my sister has neatly drawn on me using facepaints. I feel like a princess. My mum and sister walk me through the village: the pavement feels like a red carpet. We arrive at Mary’s big rambling house. All the other children are there. They’re in their shellsuits or jeans with Sweater Shop jumpers. Mary’s mum clasps her hand to her mouth in genuine upset. Had no one told me they’d cancelled the fancy dress theme? Then she gathers herself and tells me I look like a princess and I put my chin up and feel it. Now, looking back, I see what a gracious and well-timed reaction she had. Because I didn’t want to curl up or go home: I wanted to stay and show those girls that I wasn’t just a frump in a fringe, I could be a sparkly princess. I enjoyed the party and the mum even rustled me up a Best Dressed prize. But I carry with me that brief moment of utter humiliation. But I also carry the ability to rally and ride it out, princess-style.

 

Ten Years Later

I’ve changed schools for six form and I am so much happier. My new classmates are funny and open-minded and totally accepting of this oddbod nerd who’s joined them. On the Friday of the first October half-term, a new friend has organised a fancy dress party in a hall in Canterbury. The theme is ‘Spies’. I find this oddly specific and dress as the only one I know: Charlotte Grey. The film has just been released. I’m in a woollen floor-length skirt. I have a shirt tucked in under a blazer and a beret on my head. My body has recently changed and thinned and plumped in different places. I feel sophisticated in my outfit. I arrive at the party. I can’t understand it: everyone is dressed in 60s dresses. Short hems. Bright colours. Bobbed wigs. My lovely friend looks at me, bewildered. ‘Sally, which Austin Powers character are you meant to be?’. Austin Powers: Goldmember had also just been released. No one had bothered mentioning these were the ‘spies’ in mind because anyone who hadn’t lived under a rock/book would know that. I am a pretentious 16 year old. I didn’t know.  But that group of lovely new friends just chuckle at me, admire my hat and engulf me in the party.  I try and dance along but don’t know any of the words to the songs.

 

There is no photographic evidence of this humiliation. I am ever-grateful that I teenaged pre-smartphones.

January Favourites

I have had a very good run of excellent finds this month and I will share them with you now as it is fast approaching payday. At bloody last.

Outfit Chat

During ‘The Flu Episode’ I bought myself a new dress from ASOS. I got confused and didn’t manage to actually buy it until I’d detoxed off Lemsip and the 10s had sold out. I bought the 12 which is lose in a ‘fine with a belt’ way. Going to wear it with trainers and denim jacket ASAP.

Also, shout out to Primark Vintage Mom jeans for all of us with big bums but small waists…and messy sitting rooms.

Podcast Chat

Thanks to Rhiannon from Great Mum Shit Mum for recommending the excellent Don’t Salt My Game podcast which calls bullshit on the diet, wellness, clean living and beauty industry. The podcasts are so informative and empowering and practical- I truly believe they would help anyone who struggles with disordered eating. And if, like me, you don’t, they are very useful for understanding nutrition and biology.

Skin Chat

On the beauty myths episode of Don’t Salt My Game, a dermatologist explains what’s what with beauty products and recommends two that actually work. The Avene Cleanser which is £12 and works like a charm and The Ordinary Retinol night cream which is also £12 and I’m convinced it will last forever. I’m not really interested or susceptible to skincare stuff but I’m sold on these two things.

Book Chat

I have read so so many good books in the last month but two of the best or Normal People and The Natural Way of Things. Both of these I read in one sitting. Normal People is like One Day but less drippy. The Natural Way of Things is like a female Lord of the Flies: a group of women wake up in the Australian outback where they are locked in cages at night but soon work out they are all there because they were involved in sex scandals with powerful men. It is dark and dirty and disturbing and brilliant.

Grub Chat

Every year we resolve to try a new recipe every week. I recommend The Roasting Tin for anyone else in need of inspiration. For now though, here are my favourite meals I would happily eat on repeat for life.

Beef stew in the slow cooker with dumplings that have blue cheese in them.

Gnocchi baked with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, pine nuts and bacon lardons.

Sesame bagels with peanut butter.

Hair Chat

Molton Brown’s Cloudberry shampoo is drrreaaamy and smells lovely. It’s expensive (£18) so my MiL got me the shampoo and conditioner for Christmas. Also, I’ve been using this excellent hair device that the lovey Natali (Insta @natalipendleton) recommended and it really can give you a nice curl or big hair- it’s a rotating hairbrush/hairdryer.

I would also include my dressing gown, marshmallows on hot chocolate, Shaun the Sheep movie, and Tori Amos’ album Under the Pink.

I love stuff!

Day 15: the end

Proper full on back-to-school blues. That lugging Sunday night feel. I keep trying to hold William and sniff him and have profound moments but he keeps shrugging me off and telling me he’s bored and this is the worst day of his life.

I drop Alex at nursery for a few hours so Monday isn’t such a blow. He cries. I cry. William cries.

I suggest a cinema trip. A soft play venture. A lunch out. All of them will be ‘rubbish’. We stay at home.

It’s still the worst day of William’s life ever.

I put some laundry away.

We mope about.

We go and pick up Alex who’s had a great day.

I take all these as a sign the spell has broken and normality beckons.

In the corner of the living room the artificial Christmas tree is wilting.

Day 14: New Year’s Day

Deep down, I know New Year’s resolutions are patriarchal pants designed to make us naval gaze our way in to a vegan diet but I do like a fresh start. Like that feeling at primary school when you got a new exercise book and vowed to keep in maximum neat with best handwriting.

And so despite myself, I’m going in to 2019 with a few things to hothouse.

1) Make the children more independent

They need to lay the table, put their dirty washing in the basket, empty the dishwasher etc. I need to stop mollycoddling them- there are already enough entitled white boys in the world.

2) Create an office space.

Somewhere in the house. Just a small spot-big enough for a laptop and a tidy exercise book.

3) Write more.

I’m 16,000 words in to a novel and have been for about eight months. Get on with it!

(Wonder if that’s the most common [and most w**ky] resolution ever?)

4) Ace a mega deadlift

100kg or bust. Plus master a handstand. #dreams

5) Other noble and aspirational targets for the better and good of society etc

I don’t think resolutions should be used to beat ourselves up or starve ourselves or treadmill our bodies as punishment or reflect endlessly on our foibles and flaws but I do think there’s a value in taking a moment to consider what worked well in the year just gone and to have a momentary self-indulge in what we would like for ourselves in the year to come. Surely that’s even a little bit feminist…?

Reading my way to self-actualisation.