Mornings are changing

Since September 2014 my morning routine has been shaped by school timetables and the need to support the offspring to be somewhere at a certain time.  Over the past few years, the mornings have been marked by a family walk at a specific time as we shared some of the morning dog walk/run route with the teens walking to their bus.  It has been the perfect shape for my morning; plenty of time for coffee, writing blogs, preparing for work, then a specific time to get outside for exercise.  

I am good at planning, I am very aware of what is working well for me and what I would like to achieve in my mornings.  Nevertheless, it feels a bit difficult this morning.  That’s it, no more school in the family.  Work will start in September, but that is 11 weeks away and I cannot even begin to guess what that routine will look like, so I am focussing on this chapter.

So far it feels a bit the same as usual I have to say.  Except there is no teenager to drag out of bed – those with a knowledge of teens will know their sleep is heavy and it can take a while to rouse them and check they did get out of bed.  So that is an extra 5 minutes of morning gained so far.  

I am determined to keep to the usual time of blog writing, but the moment it’s over, I have to face the lack of routine, so I am extending it by fetching another coffee, following an email link down a rabbit hole.  I have discovered the husband tidying up the “Tupperware” cupboard – that is obviously what has filled the lunch-making void for him. 

I am suspecting a joint reluctance to make ourselves go out for a run.  The family walk made us leave the house, now we need to make ourselves. And we need to relish this new chapter with all its opportunities and its space to be filled with new ventures.

So I’m done – time to shape those new venture.

Refinding theatre

I enjoy going to the theatre.  I love the whole magic of a story coming to life in front of a live audience.  I find the relationship between actors on a stage and me as an observer tantalising.  I marvel at the craft of voice and movement coming together.  The way a group of people use a physical set fascinates me.  I am intrigued by the lighting and the music and the sound and props. Everything about theatre I love. There are few shows that I don’t enjoy. I may not enjoy everything about it, but I can just about always find something to fascinate and intrigue.

So why have I not been to the theatre much recently?  Strangely it has been a reaction to the offspring growing up.  I had a project going to lots of Shakespeare plays at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford with the eldest offspring (it was supposed to be both, but the youngest rebelled very quickly).  When I say lots of Shakespeare plays, I mean them all – the RSC committed to putting them all on over the years.

We were doing well, missed a couple due to life circumstances, but had seen pretty much everything so far.  Then the eldest was due to leave home.  And something clicked in my brain.  My excitement at booking a whole season as soon as it was released disappeared.  I could not make myself book the winter season in advance, and then not even during the season.  The mailings and emails about the summer season were ignored. 

Friends have told me I have missed some good productions, but somehow the mojo has gone.  But last night reignited that a bit with a good production of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin at The Rep in Birmingham.  Theatre takes me out of myself, makes me look at a bigger picture, allows my brain to process life.   It also gives me a tiny teeny little window into what some women suffer from hugely – empty nest syndrome.  This is literally the only symptom of it I have experienced. 

So I am going to embrace this other, slightly random, lesson that theatre teaches and start booking some RSC tickets for when the offspring is home this summer. And get myself to The Rep more often – what a superb theatre that is.

It’s what we’ll remember…

Rewinding to the weekend before illness struck – we belatedly celebrated a teen’s birthday.  We moved the celebration to the Bank Holiday weekend due to exams falling on and the day after the birthday itself.  

We decided to go on a mini-road trip to the beach.  The coastline of the UK is one of my favourite things about this country.  Yet I choose to live about as far from it as I possibly can. No, I don’t quite understand that either, but nevertheless I love Birmingham.  And we proved we can have a day on the beach whenever we want.  

As we were travelling in convoy as a group aged from pre-teens to their 70s and two dogs, we decided to make life relatively easy and headed to Weston-super-Mare, as most of Birmingham does on these occasions

The journeys were smooth and involved various stops for various types of refreshment. Walkie talkies were used in the cars to keep up a fairly sustained level of family banter and earphones were used by those who did not join in.  The dogs were just content to be with their beloved humans and heading somewhere.  I love their trust of just being in the moment – they know they will be well and cared for, but have no idea what they will be doing.

The day had been planned with a longish dog walk on a nearby dog-friendly beach to start, followed by brunch in the dog-friendly café and then heading into Weston itself, which has reduced access for dogs on its beach.

We arrived at the dog-friendly beach in rain.  Not too heavy, so we set off anyway.  We totally didn’t see the signs warning about mud, so one person’s shoes got very muddy. About half way up the beach the rain changed from light to that horizontal yet fine rain that you get at the sea which soaks you, but you sort of don’t notice you are soaked until you realise that moving your body is much harder with the extra water logging effect.  So, we decided to head to the café.  Which was not yet open. So, we walked a bit more and then headed to the café which was adorned with a large notice saying no dogs allowed.  So much for the plans.

Back in the cars soaking wet and coffee much needed, we started part two of the plan and headed into the main resort.  Car heaters helped to dry us off, but first thing was to buy some dry trousers for those really struggling.  

Of course, the rain then stopped and we spent a lovely afternoon of lunch and coffees and ice cream and more beach walks and time in the pier fun fair.  Cafes accepted, indeed welcomed dogs, so we ate well and those of us not on the pier (which does not take dogs) were able to hide out with papers and drinks very easily.

We drove home in lovely sunshine and found dinner in a beautiful pub in Worcestershire.  Weston turned out to be very dog-friendly and – possibly due to the weather – not very crowded.

Reflecting back the day to the birthday boy I apologised for the morning plan which had been so wrong in the end.  He laughed and explained that that is what we will remember, we will only ever tell stories about getting wet and muddy and the café not allowing dogs, not the pleasant afternoon.

Indeed, just over a week later, I finished this piece which I had started several days ago.  And even this close to the event, I couldn’t think of much more to say about the afternoon, Reading the paper over a peppermint tea will probably not remain in my memory for long.  The walk along a beach in weather that was beyond inclement really will.

Here’s to the things that go wrong to enable the family stories. 

Counting the blessings after the curveball

I have half attempted blogging over the last few weeks, but have not managed to complete one; I had forgotten the cathartic benefits of writing stuff down and putting it “out there”. Today I need the catharsis.

Yesterday was one of those days that come out of the blue and knock you for six.  Thursday had been lovely, starting with a family run and ending with dinner with a friend and her group of friends who are very delightful and interesting and strong women.

Then it went downhill fast with the offspring waking with a very high fever.   Something made my maternal flags go up, so I sought medical advice.  All of a sudden we were on the way to A&E with a case of suspected sepsis or meningitis.  Neither were happening thank God. It was a long morning of tests and waiting for results, but the end result was that we were given the all clear for those nasties and sent home with a stash of antibiotics.

It was a shocking reminder that life can be fragile, things go wrong quickly and in a moment life changes forever.  Yesterday ended well, with offspring feeling better and the whole family at home.  Nevertheless the Mama-brain has spent many hours with the what-ifs, and processing the fact that I had forgotten about meningitis being a thing for teens, that I had started to think that those scary days of watching little ones be very poorly were behind me.  The scary days just involve someone much taller than me, but they’re no less scary it turns out.

I went to bed thankful for our NHS, for the friends that stayed by me via text all day, for the support of family, for having jobs that enable us to switch to a family focus with no notice (or in my case to work part-time). And most of all, that the offspring is getting better and those nasty illnesses were not a reality I am living with today.

The joy of hosting

I do love having people here to stay or for a day. This was a non-hosting weekend, but it gave me some time to think about the differences between a houseful of guests and one without.

I do make more of an effort with the physical environment when visitors come. So, yep, I clean if you visit, not so much if you don’t. This became a bit of a joke when the children were very small and I would ask people over for coffee explaining that nothing else would motivate me to get the vacuum cleaner out.

My house is not huge, but it’s not tiny. Having people here to stay or even just for the day is an exercise in re-enacting A Squash and A Squeeze by Julia Donaldson, one of our favourite children’s books. Well one of mine. I early on recognised the joy of cramming lots of people into a house and then the realisation when everyone leaves that there is plenty of space really.

Over the years, having the aim of inviting people over has led to certain decisions in arranging the house. A small extension now houses a large dining table. We replaced two chairs with another sofa in the sitting room, as that gave a bit more space for people to squish in. For ages there was no coffee table, because playing room for children was much more important. There is a variety of spare beds stashed throughout the house. The garden was changed to add in sofas and a few extra seats, recognising that our garden is a place for people much more than plants really.

I enjoy the challenge of catering for groups and am rarely happier than when the house is full at breakfast time. All of which makes me think I need to plan in some weekends hosting folks. Off to the diary I head.

Easter reflections part 2

The pathos of Holy Week inevitably leads to the absolute joy of Easter Sunday, at the least within the church services. Taken together the services are a safe way to travel through a whole gamut of emotions and have a really happy ending.

Our Easter was certainly joyous and happy. It was a Saturday of catching up with dear family who we rarely see, cousins were reunited and took up where they left off. News was exchanged and the most delicious giant profiteroles stuffed with ice cream were eaten. Other delicious things were eaten, but the profiteroles were seriously amazing.

Easter Sunday was a joyous church occasion followed by a sumptuous Easter brunch. I am not sure I have ever cooked brunch on Easter Sunday before, but I loved it. Brunch is a great meal to be able to create a sense of abundance and it always feels like a treat.

There was of course chocolate, wine, and coffee – all of which had been fasted from by various members of the family. There was the extended family, more cousins joyfully gathering. The day had an underlying retro Wii Sports competition happening, along with Easter egg hunts, Easter egg decorating, dog walks and frisbee playing in the park. And a lot of sun cream thanks to the amazing weather.

All in all a long and joyous day of family and feasting and being very aware of all the many blessings that surround us.

A London weekend

Style change alert. I think I am going to spend a week or so using this as a sort of online record of all I do. Let’s see how we go, I am not totally convinced by the idea.

Our weekend feels worthy of reliving in writing . We all, offspring and my Mum, got on a train to London on Saturday morning. It’s amazing how much more fun that journey is with family. And how much more fun fellow passengers are at the weekend. The enormous dog snoozing at one end of the carriage was gorgeous. The crowd of stage school students were just brilliant in their confidence and sense of fun and their enthusiasm for the morning and the application of makeup.

The aim of the weekend was to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the continuation of the stories on stage. There are two parts, it is recommended to see them on consecutive nights or on the same day. We did the latter. They are two brilliant plays, great theatre experience for the family, and we all loved it a lot. It absolutely lived up to our expectations. I have since downloaded Imogen Heap’s mesmerising music in four suites to relive some of the experience.

I had of course bought the “cheap” seats (its all relative!) in the balcony with the steepest rake I have ever experienced – I remember feeling terrified seeing Les Miserables from the cheap seats decades ago. Those in the group with vertigo coped very well, my instinct to not mention that the seats were very high and with limited leg room before we got there seemed to have worked. There have been a few whinges about sore knees since, but they are falling on the deaf ears of the shortest member of the family. There are few advantages of being my height, this is one I relish.

The show was interspersed with consumption of Japanese food. Having spent a weekend away recently without teens, we had to readjust back to the need for a lot of food this time. For a reason that is beyond us, there is no branch of Itsu in Birmingham, so every trip to London has an obligatory visit included. In this case lunch before theatre. Then for some reason the popular choice for dinner was Wagamama. I know, we could definitely have found independents to go and eat in, but we needed convenience and confidence in the food. And both choices were delicious and included vegetables, so I was happy.

The day was utterly exhausting – 5 hours of theatre is a lot. And there are a LOT of stairs in the Palace Theatre. So there were a fair number of coffee breaks too.

Sunday started with a run along the Thames for three of us, it was our first ever run with an offspring and having the South Bank area pretty much to ourselves was a treat that offset the rainy windy weather on the run.

A very long breakfast – in a vain attempt to fill up the teens and to consume enough coffee to wake me up – was followed by a gentle stroll back along the running route and a visit to Tate Modern. The Turbine Hall never fails to impress me and their flat whites are delicious – you get the theme of the day – stroll and coffee. We had the customary family arguments about the merits of modern art, but it was a fast stroll through the galleries. I do struggle with film installations when I am tired – they feel overwhelming. The Magic Realism exhibition was a flashback to student days though, I still find the movement fascinating.

Lunch was back in the hotel bar, which is comfy and was convenient. I discovered that the eldest offspring now seems to know something about football – its amazing the way they change when they leave home!

The afternoon train journey was very quiet with us all hiding in books or snoozing. We arrived back into Birmingham in a flurry of snow, which was bizarre. Mum and eldest headed back off to their respective homes and the rest of us settled into an evening of sofas, pizza and gentle TV. Lovely.

A great weekend indeed. And it’s always good to go back and relive it.

Sunrise over London