My Stupid Thoughts

The first night of our holiday
I am awake, imagining
people sneaking
into our tent while we sleep.

Things will go badly.
Things will go badly.
Things will go badly.

In the morning my husband suggests cycling.

What shall we. No, that sounds like it might. Bikes might be a bit of a bad idea coz like, what if, what if they start? What if they don’t? What if we need to? What if it rains? What if they start to get?

and then we have already
and can’t get back
and they won’t want to
and if they start crying
and I dunno.
I just.

I just.

I just think it might be a nightmare.

Things will go badly.
Things will go badly.
Things will go badly.

God, I can hear myself.

I can hear myself.
I can see myself too
lying awake in the dark,
holding onto the sides in the pool,
looking into the sky outside the window
checking everything again and again before we leave the house each day.

Nappies. Wipes. Snack. Drink. Keys. Phone. Toy.
Nappies. Wipes. Snack. Drink. Keys. Phone. Toy.
Nappies. Wipes. Snack. Drink. Keys. Phone. Toy.

At the front door;

did I definitely put a snack in?

‘Well, you’re much more relaxed with them when you have your second,’ they say.
‘You’re much more relaxed and it makes them more relaxed.’
‘You’re happy, so they’re happy.’
‘Everyone is happy.’
‘Happy Mum, happy child.’
‘It’s important that you are relaxed.’
‘You must find time to relax.’
‘Just take a nice deep breath.’
‘You just need to be more relaxed.’

‘I feel stressed all the time.’ I tell people.
‘Mmmm,’ they say.
‘I worry a lot,’ I say.
‘Mmmm,’ they say and then,

‘Did you hear about the boy’s body, that they found in a wheelie bin? Such an awful story,’ they say.
‘Have you seen that story in the news, the one about the little girl that choked on a . . . ?’
‘I was watching this documentary about this paedophile ring last night and  . . .’

Who will do all of this worrying?
Who would carry this?
Does someone have to?
Isn’t it somebody’s job?

A job watching a screen full of stupid thoughts
and endless possibilities.
Playing over and over in my head.
A day out begins and ends there
where I see the worst things
and sometimes the terrible things

and decide not to go.

Things will go badly.
Things will go badly.
Things will go badly.

It is a chorus that repeats
over and over
gnawing its way at night
around the edges of my happiness.

Things will go badly.
Things will go badly.
Things will go badly.

Half way down a hill
on the bikes that I didn’t want to hire
I see her flying
Knobbly little knees pumping the pedals.

The sun and the wind eating up my words behind her
the

‘BE CAREFUL!’

sticking in my throat.

‘Weeeeeeeeeeee!’ she cries
and she laughs a laugh
that bounces
off the tall trees and
the tarmac of the road

Her brother behind me in the bike trailer shouting,

‘Mummah! Mummah! Gooooo!’

as we fly down behind her.

Things will go badly.
Things will go badly.
Things will go badly.

Going down that hill.

I loosened my grip on the brake
and laughed a laugh that only I could hear.

You were wrong, I say to my chorus.
You were lying.

Some things will go well

Some things will go so

unbelievably

well.

Was it enough?

At the end of each day with my kids I find myself asking this question. Was it enough today? Did I do enough with them? Was it good enough?

The summer holidays are a key time to feel like shit about yourself as a parent I reckon. You feel like everyday you should be visiting castles and museums and exploring the woods or whatever. Maybe it’s just me, but I never really feel like I am doing enough. We can’t afford abroad holidays or lots of days out at theme parks and stuff. We just don’t have the money and even if we did, with a toddler and a five-year-old I also have to think about whether or not I can manage them both on my own wherever we happen to be. Call me pathetic but at this stage, where my son is such a fearless (and senseless) little toddler and will just run full pace into the sea or the road or away from me in a public place without looking back for a moment, I am too anxious to take them both to the beach for a day out by myself. It’s just too much.

There’s also the attention thing. My daughter is usually at school and so I don’t have both of them all day everyday by myself. I find myself constantly worrying that I am neglecting one and not being fair on the other one. Have I not given my son enough attention this morning? Should I have said yes to that fifth game of (motherfucking) snap with my daughter?

There’s a chance that I am just a bit of chronic worrier and that most mums don’t have these thoughts every day. I generally just try to survive and get to the end of each day without shouting at my kids. I am not aiming for perfection but I still find myself reflecting once they are in bed and asking myself, was it enough today?

As a kid I remember going to this thing called ‘Tunnels Through Time’ on holiday in Cornwall. It was this creepy museum thing with various scenes and legends from history staged out with dressed up dummies in the semi darkness. One story in particular that I remember has stayed with me for years. It was a scene in which a giant is holding his cut finger over rock pool by the sea and a princess is standing over him. The legend was that the giant was asked to prove his love for the princess by filling the little rock pool with his blood, only of course it was a trick because there was a hole in the rock pool and the blood actually just ran out into the sea. He could never fill up the little rock pool. It was never enough.

I guess maybe in the end he just bled to death or something.

Shit, who thinks up these fairytales?

The thing is, whatever I give, it will never be enough. Not really. It doesn’t mean I am going to stop trying but wow, doesn’t it take a lot out of you?

And the worry.

The worry is probably something I need to handle better. I don’t know if it’s this normal to worry about your kids so much. I don’t know whether it’s normal to constantly evaluate your performance as a mother like I do and it’s not all about whether or not I’m coming up with loads of exciting activities. I’m asking myself, all the time actually, was I patient enough, did I think it through enough, could I have tried a bit harder, could I have been a bit more cheerful about it?

And the answers always come back to me in my head, no you weren’t patient enough, definitely not, no you didn’t think that thing through enough, I can’t believe that after all that fucking planning out of the day you forgot to take the wipes, what is wrong with you? Yes, you could have tried harder and yeah, you definitely could have been more cheerful about it.

I don’t think I know anyone who is harsher on me than myself.

I hardly know why I am really writing this apart from to say that it is the summer holidays and I am not doing shitloads of fantastic days out with the kids and the other day I really unnecessarily shouted at my daughter for being scared of going to the loo by herself and that a lot of the time I don’t feel like a very good Mum.

A lot of the time I feel like I should be doing it all a bit better.

A lot of the time I am worrying.

I guess I am writing this because before anyone read my blog I just really wanted somewhere to write down my thoughts really honestly about being a mum and when I’m being honest with myself I’m not like, any kind of really funny mum blogger or anything. I am someone who right now is trying really hard and worrying really hard and asking myself each day,

What I did today, was it enough?

Was it enough today?

And to be honest, in my eyes at least, I’m not sure that the answer will ever be yes.

What if I want to be old?

I mean, I know I am supposed to be spending loads of money on not getting wrinkles, banishing fat cells and covering up any grey hairs or whatever, but what if I actually don’t really care? What if being older is something I want to happen to me?

I’ve never been much of one for beauty products, I mean, I wear make-up quite often and use a lot of hair mousse but that’s about as far as it goes. I guess I don’t make that much of an effort with my appearance in general. I started getting grey hairs in my early twenties and it was just the odd one now and then, but after my second child was born I noticed that my hair was really starting to go grey, like really noticeably and I kind of felt like I should do something about it without necessarily wanting to do anything about it.

Then someone at work told me that it looked awful and I should dye my hair.

I just want it noted though that the woman in question was in her late fifties with BRIGHT red dyed hair, a selection of old biker tattoos (some of which I think she did herself) and an inch-long kind of short back and sides haircut which literally grows straight up into the air. Actually she is awesome and I could probably write a whole blog post just about her, but anyway, that wasn’t the point. The point was, I could not pull off primary coloured experimental hair dos like her because I am just not really that cool but I appreciated her total honesty.

(although, like, fuck you for saying I look awful)

So I dyed my hair.

I went to boots and brought what looked like my natural hair colour in a box. I went home and once the kids were in bed I set about fiddling around with various lotions, bottles and little plastic brushes until my hair was covered in something that looked and smelt like oven cleaner. I also sort of dyed nearly every towel in the house and part of the sink a kind of mottled-poo colour.

I wrapped up my horrific smelling hair in a towel and sat around reading crap on facebook for twenty minutes, or was it twenty-five? Oh well, I thought, I suppose it doesn’t really make much difference if I leave it on for an extra five minutes, does it?

Or was it maybe ten minutes?

I dunno really, I got sucked into watching videos of people carving melons and making carrots look like roses on facebook. It’s only when I got distracted by the smell of burning hair coming from my own head that I remembered about washing it off.

Look, let me tell you something which is actually really important.

It’s something I didn’t know and I wish that I had known at the time.

Apparently it really makes a serious fucking difference if you leave the hair dye on for an extra ten minutes.

Like, it is critical. Especially if you are using permanent dye. I didn’t realise the dye I had used was permanent coz on the packet it wasn’t quite worded like that and I was mainly distracted by the model’s beautiful flowing mane and getting quite excited to think that soon, I too was going to look just like that.

hair

Whereas what I actually ended up looked like was this.
severus

My hair was black.

Like, black-black.

Like an un natural black that has never been seen before in nature anywhere ever.

My black hair was black-hole black.

It became a region of space where matter had collapsed in on itself, creating a gravitational pull so strong that even light could not get out. My hair began to affect nearby dust, stars and galaxies. Those travelling too close to my hair, returned to their loved ones only to find that they had aged some twenty years in only a few minutes due to the way that my hair began to affect the space-time continuum of those on my event horizon.

(Don’t mind me. I watched Interstellar recently. Not much of an idea of what was going on but Matthew McConaughey right?)

My totally black hair made me look a bit of a twat basically.

Since then I have been growing out my black hair to be replaced by my grey and brown hair and I think it is almost completely gone. Obviously having never dyed my hair before in my life I did totally cock it up. You would probably do a better job of it but I think that my point is, if my hair is greying now in my thirties and I’m hopefully going to live into my nineties, do I really want to spend the next sixty years of my life dying my hair?
I mean, I already have plenty of beauty related chores to do like shaving my legs, moisturising my elbows and blow drying my hair or whatever. I also have loads of hobbies to keep up with like; cleaning child vomit out of carpets, making dinners that no one wants to eat, sifting baby poo out of the bath, picking spoonfuls of cold pasta bake up off the floor and secretly taking batteries out of loud, singing toys so, you know, who has time for hair dying on top of all that shit?

But really, the reason I don’t know if I really care is because I actually want to be old. I want to be fourty. I want to be sixty. I want to be an eighty-year-old woman. God, do you really think I’d like to use the (hopefully) sixty or so years that I have left to be alive wishing that I was twenty again? To be honest, If I was offered the chance I wouldn’t turn back the clock ten years. I am happier now at thirty-three than I was at twenty-three. I know that the general idea is that you have all your fun when you are young and then just become more and more miserable and boring until you are a really grumpy old lady, but what if for some of us the reverse is true?

In my late teens and early twenties I was more unsure of who I really was. I was embarrassed more often. I scrutinised my appearance and my weight much more often and much more harshly. I spent time getting together and breaking up with guys who I knew deep down I would never have been happy with long term. I spent more money and I worried about money more. I was not so confident as I am now and was not ready and able to tell people ‘fuck off’ when I should have done.

I have changed. Getting older has changed me. Becoming a mother and looking after my babies has changed me and what I think is exciting about continuing to get older is that I will continue to change. I will not be quite the same person when I am fourty as I am now. I am looking forward to that. I am looking forward to seeing my kids become young adults and getting to know who they really are a little bit more. I am looking forward to them pooing in a way which is completely independent and not at all in the bath.

I may or may not dye my hair again. I don’t mind the amount of grey that I have right now but perhaps in a few years time I will cave and will want to cover it all up. I don’t know really. I kind of hope I don’t though. I hope I can always be glad to be older. If I ever do I just hope I use the extra couple of years of wisdom gained and remember to actually read and follow the instructions on the bloody packet this time.

 

 

 

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The warmth between us

Sneaking into your room
before I go to bed
I see your perfect face

in the dark
your little chest rising and falling
against the soft cotton
of a hand-me-down sleep-suit

your smooth little hands
above your head on the pillow
as if you are falling through the air.

I lean over your cot
brush the curls away
from your cheek

Where did you come from?
You beautiful thing

I love you so much

I almost don’t remember that time the other day when you were playing naked in the garden and then you came over to me, even though I had been at work all day and you hadn’t wanted to give me a cuddle when I got in, but then you did come over and I thought,
‘Oh you do love me after all’

and then you kind of hugged my leg and went really still and I thought, ‘Oh lovely, we are just really, really reconnecting after we have been apart all day,’ and I felt so much better and less guilty about going to work and so warm inside that you came over especially to me and wanted to cuddle my leg and then, you looked at me and became suddenly so still and just held my gaze in this really intense way and I felt this real connection between us and also, this amazing warmth.

Like, I felt really warm

Like, seriously, why is my leg so warm?

Wait, are you-

Aaaargh!

For fuckssake.

You are totally weeing on my leg.

Like rice

Look, this is probably the darkest thing I have ever written, it’s about my feelings on far right wing groups and fascism, you might not be in the kind of place where this is something you will want to read at the moment and that’s ok. This is just what I am thinking about a lot so I felt it was important to put in on here. That’s all really.

Have you ever met anyone who has spent some time inside a concentration camp?

I have.

What is it about the holocaust?

What is it that makes us crave to hear about and to read about it so much?

Why do we want to watch so many films about it?

As a culture we had consumed it over and over again. We have walked around exhibitions, we have read books and we have seen plays and films. I remember at uni reading ‘If this is a man,’ by Primo Levi, which is a graphic account of his time in a concentration camp.

When we got into our seminar groups we started to discuss the book.

‘I loved the book,’ said one student.

‘I couldn’t put it down,’ said another.

‘I really enjoyed reading it,’ said another.

At this point, I had to butt in.

‘You enjoyed it?’ I said.

‘Well, yes,’ she replied, ‘it was a gripping read. Didn’t you enjoy the book?’ she asked me.

‘No,’ I said. ‘No, I didn’t. It made me feel physically sick every minute that I was reading it. Every page, every chapter, every moment. I hated reading it. I had to keep putting it down’

Thus followed a discussion on how it wasn’t important how uncomfortable or upsetting it was for me to read. What was important was that we should all be aware of what happened in the camps, what life was like inside one and that we should learn from the horrors of the holocaust, that it should never happen again. Still, I found it weird that they seemed to enjoy the discussion and the book so much, talking about their favourite parts and the bits that moved them to tears.

While I was at uni, I worked part time in a day centre for elderly people. I helped to pick the disabled and partially sighted elderly people up in a minibus and helped to drop them home at the end of each day in my hi-viz jacket.When I became a mum I was already pretty good at navigating kerbs and ramps with the pram. I had pushed a wheelchair so many times. I also helped in the kitchen at lunch time, cooking the lunch and helping to wash up when the meal was over.

One day, after the washing up I took a break outside to get away from the heat of the kitchen. One of the elderly ladies was walking up and down with her walking stick outside the front doors in the last of the winter sun. She was someone I chatted to regularly. She liked to show me photos of her handsome grandson who was an officer in the army. She liked to tell me about her daughters and to ask me about my boyfriend. Apart from her polish accent, she reminded me very much of my own grandma.

Outside in the cold that afternoon, she came over and held onto my arm. Suddenly outside and away from the noise of the centre she didn’t want to talk about her handsome grandson anymore.

‘I have to do this,’ she said. ‘I have to walk everyday.’

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Good for you. It’s good to do a bit of exercise everyday.’

She looked up into my face. She was wearing those massive sunglasses that partially sighted people wear sometimes. Behind the black plastic, her eyes flickered and focused on something that was not there. I noticed that despite the cold and the way that our breaths were curling away into the air she was not wearing any coat.

‘When I was young,’ she began.

‘When I was young I was made to walk and walk.

We walked for miles in the snow.

I was . . . maybe fourteen.

We had to walk and walk.

We couldn’t stop.

So many were sick.

They fell down like rice.’

She motioned casually dropping a handful of rice onto the roadside.

‘They fell down on the road. We were all children really. So many were, you know, they were just sick so, like rice, they just dropped down in the road. They left them there on the road. Where they fell. So many of them.’

‘But where were you going?’ I asked, quite confused as to what we were talking about.

She gripped my arm and her voice became something between a croak and a whisper.

‘To the camps of course.’


So why am I writing about the holocaust? Why am I writing about this on a mum-blog? I don’t really want to. I hate writing this post. I wish that I wasn’t.

I feel that I have to write about how I’m truly feeling, about what is going on inside my head. I’m not sure there if there is anything else I can really write.

I am writing about the holocaust because I feel like even after all the books and the films and the art and the museum exhibitions, it seems that we can still not recognise and stamp out fascism when it begins to rise, and I am disturbed that so many of us can still not manage to have any compassion on those who are desperately seeking safety for their families and children.

Who are we becoming in Britain?

I hardly recognise us anymore.

Last week several Polish fruit pickers were verbally abused and chased through my local town centre, simply for walking down the street near to some drunk white men.

‘Why don’t you fuck off home now?’ They shouted after them.

‘Why don’t you fuck off back to your own country?’

Several months ago a disused building in my next town was used for a short period of time as a temporary home for unaccompanied young asylum seekers. People turned up with placards from the English defence league to protest against it, claiming that local children would not be safe with this ‘invasion’ of non-english children. Some local parents agreed and turned up with their children who had made placards in their best bubble writing saying, ‘PUT OUR CHILDREN FIRST’ and ‘NOT ON OUR DOORSTEP’

In a few years’ time those same kids will be reading ‘The Diary of Anne Frank,’ at school. They will read about what happens when we dehumanise each other, when we demonise each other, when we go through an economic crisis and we suffer and then right wing groups start to rise up like a bad smell and point their fingers at ‘foreigners’ as the cause of all their problems.

A few nights after the protest, perhaps one of the mums flicks on the telly. Schindler’s List is on. Oh good, she thinks, I haven’t seen this film for a while, I love that bit with the girl in the red coat. It’s so emotional. Such a tear jerker.

In a few hundred years’ time, when she is dead and gone, her children’s, children’s, children’s, children will be living somewhere, maybe here and it will not be safe. Facing starvation and abuse and rape and torture and death they will decide to run instead. They will try to find somewhere that is safe. They will be knocking on the door of another country. They will be begging to be let in.

We congratulate ourselves on our victory in WW2. Our side beat the fascists. Our side stamped them out. Our side liberated those still left in the concentration camps. Didn’t we learn all about it in school? Didn’t our grandparents tell us stories of sleeping in air raid shelters and tube stations, of climbing over piles of rubble to get to school in the morning?

That happened.

What I feel is happening in this country, right here, right now, in this century, is that far right wing groups are becoming more acceptable. They are not just wearing bomber jackets and combats and pissing on the steps of mosques anymore. They are wearing suits and are standing up in parliament and getting time on tv.

Many of us voted to remain in the E.U. Many voted to leave. I was very upset by the result, but I was more upset by the way that the result seemed to encourage and empower racist groups and far right wing groups, those who were desperate to hear others say, ‘foreigners out!’

What happened in Germany, all those years ago, wasn’t it fascism at its very worst?

A far right wing political group blaming those viewed as ‘outsiders’, those who were not ‘purely native’ as the cause of all problems. Whipping up fear and anger towards the Jews, just as groups like ‘Britain First’ whip up fear and anger towards Muslims today.

Look, I know that I am not a politician, but these are my thoughts and feelings. This is where I am at after all the studying and living and caring that I have done in my life so far. This is what I believe and I guess that as someone who has been raised and educated in England, two generations away from WW2 and the horror of the holocaust, a desire to stand against fascism exists at the very core of who I am. To hear racist, xenophobic cries on the street, to see leaflets shoved through doors and posters put up in my area from some of these groups is something I never thought I would see.

I thought that we would have learnt by now that nothing good will ever come from this hate?

That at its very dark heart, it dreams we are dead already.


It’s not often that I spill a bag of rice onto the floor. It may have happened four or five times since I heard that lady’s story all those years ago, but each time that I do, each time that I rip the bag accidentally and see all those grains tumbling out, hundreds and hundreds of them spreading out and rolling across the floor, I think of her. I remember her eyes under those glasses as she held onto my arm, no longer able to see me but seeing instead all the children, all the many children, falling down into the snow.

This week she may be one of many receiving leaflets through their doors.

I am glad she will not be able to read it,

‘Polish scum. Go home.’

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