Thursday, 22 June 2017

daddy lessons

There's no hiding away from this. My Dad was a strict dad.

A 'you better get your tail back home on time' kinda Dad.

A sit down and listen to me lecture if you know what's good for you type of Dad.

A jokes that will make you groan Dad.

A never got my mates names right Dad.

There was the time he took to riding his motorbike during my athletic training runs because he couldn't keep up.

There were the times he told me to take down my Adam Ant / Madness / Duran Duran posters so often that when I left home, I blue-tacked wall-to-wall posters that it seemed I had a heaven of popstars watching over me like Greek Gods - Britpop style.

There were the Christmas Eves where he baked bread loaves in the shape of plaits and bread buns with our initials on, then left the kitchen looking like a flour hurricane had swept through. His work was done.

There were the nights I would sit on the stairs listening to him talk with his custom officer colleagues on their way to / back from a drug raid. For those tiny moments I was an extra on Juliet Bravo.

There was the year he turned 40 and I was the cassette DJ forced to play The Clash's 'I fought the Law' over and over again.

He was the Dad my mates' mums (and my PE teacher) fancied.

He was the Dad who tried so very hard to instill a sense of my ancestry in me.

He was the Dad who drove us the length and breadth of Britain so we would know our home country.

He was the Dad who  caught me reading my football magazine instead of revising for my Biology GCSE.

He was the Dad who bought me baby dummies for my 30th birthday as a gentle reminder of what he was waiting for.

He's the Dad who would make me tea and toast and sit for hours watching box sets of 24 when I was on my first maternity leave.

He's the Dad that will discuss politics, race, racism, parenting, aging, football and Doctor Who in just one phone call.

He's the Dad who climbs mountains, swims in oceans and still insists on jumping over walls even though he's passed the Beatles age-related hit song.

He's the Dad who is greeted by his grand-daughters, like Norm from Cheers, with a 'Grandpa!'

He's the Dad who isn't strict anymore.

He's the Dad who became the Grandpa who still tells jokes that make you groan.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

for all we know

Is there ever a right time to say 'I told you so'?

Guaranteed to plant a seed of teenage rage when spoken from the mouths of our parents, do we forget the weight of these four little words as we get older? 

Having long since passed the forty barrier, I am presented with regular opportunities to set up my stall and hold my ' I knew this would happen' banner aloft.

I'm not saying I'm perfect. I'm not saying I haven't made mistakes (Lord knows I've made enough mistakes to record a Blues album). And yet, whilst age doesn't always bring wisdom, it certainly brings experience.  So surely I'm allowed a little bit of #post-forty gloating? 

I, usually, attempt to disguise this as concern and commiseration.

Example 1: 
"Oh so your teacher did mean for you to explain how the character reacted rather than retell the whole story."

(subtext) Do you remember when I told you to do that but you ignored me because even though you've just started high school and I've been teaching for 20 years, clearly you know better?

Example 2:
"Oh no, really, she cried for hours whilst *insert partner's name* went out to get formula. I know, breastfeeding is hard but yes, you did give it a go and as long as she's fed eventually, right?"

(subtext) Remember that time I told you that breastfeeding can be great but isn't for everyone so, just in case, chuck a tin of formula in the back of your cupboard so it's there when your boobs and baby aren't co-operating? Having been through it three times I find that with ninety nine breastfeeding issues, using formula ain't one.

Example 3:
"Ok, so you know when I told you to make sure you start the bedtime routine an hour before lights out and leave the DVD for tomorrow, was to save you from the nightmare moment when the girls turn on you and then each other like gremlins after midnight"

(subtext) Read above

Gah, I sound so self-righteously smug, don't I? But look, surely after all this time schlepping around Planet My Life, I've learnt some stuff on the way and, occasionally, I want to save people the trouble of making the same mistakes I did.

Because I love hearing other people's advice and experiences; especially other parents and other women. What's better than sharing a being a mum / wife / woman  dilemma with a good friend? Why take the unknown high road when, sometimes, the path with the flashing signs and clearly marked dangers can make life that little bit easier? 

After listening to the trials, tribulations and triumphs of others, I usually end up with a bag of solutions and leave thinking that it's not just me who's bumbling precariously through my every day. We're all at it!

So surely, we can all crack an 'I told you so' every now and then?

Point of note - beware of overuse!

With the offspring - choose your moment carefully as the mistimed 'ITYS' may result in much sulking and grunts in place of speech.

With the newbie mother or sibling - dress it up like your child's first ever World Book Day at school because the naked 'ITYS' will be akin to sticking your tongue out and going nah nah nah nah naaaa. And no-one likes that person.

With the live-in significant other - treat it like foundation: cover all necessary areas then apply a little make-up.  Failing that - a well placed eyebrow lift can also effective

With the mother-in-law - leave it, it's just not worth it.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

miss you like crazy

grinding cocoa before shaking the pineapple tree

We were never one of those families who had grandparents and aunties and uncles regularly popping by. In my infant days I spent time with my Grenada grandparents, who were in London when I was born but I was too young for these memories to remain. Into my toddler years I certainly remember hazy, lazy days with a wonderful great-aunt who's daughters became my surrogate sisters; but that too came to an abrupt end.

We became a nucleus. A fortress of four that occasionally journeyed from suburbia into the city walls of London to visit our Caribbean extended families; as the years passed, the gaps between visits grew wider.

The GeordieLad's experience is not the same. He comes from a family that were used to each other's living rooms, Sunday dinners and Christmases. The love, laughs, support and birthday money that he had taken for granted was extended to me well before our wedding bells; his family circle widened to include me from day one. So when we became parents I planned to ensure that our girls saw all extensions of our family more often than at the obligatory weddings, christenings and funerals. And they do. We all do the best we can.

However, my Grenada grandparents cannot be part of this, returning back to their homeland in the 70s we exist in each other's lives through faded photos and fortunately, the rare visit. Now great-grandparents, we took the opportunity to take our babies during my maternity leaves but they were so very young that it was unlikely they would remember them at all.

So last year's summer holiday at my Dad's Grenada home was invaluable. They were now of an age where they could interact with their Great-Grandparents - it was an opportunity we could not afford to waste. Despite my Grandfather being invalid and quite poorly, the girls were respectful of his unpredictable behaviour and made sure they chatted to him about their adventures, even though he would often not respond. They knew he was listening and the morning we spent manoeuvring him down to the beach will be a lasting moment for us all. 

And as for my Grandma. Well, depending on which branch you sit on the family tree denotes the relationship you have with her. I do pretty well, thanks very much. The girls, do even better.  We'll not mention how my Dad gets on. She might have talked in riddles and roundabouts that made them look to me for interpretations (which I  would respond to with a 'yes Grandma' until they got the idea) but she taught them how to roll grind cocoa and churn ice-cream on her birthday. She showed them how anything can be stored in a freezer and took them on a photographic journey of her life in 1960s London. She also made them laugh with her sayings and gave them nicknames that would have prompted tears had I thought of them.

Saying goodbye to my Grenada grandparents was one of the hardest things my girls have ever seen me do. They don't like to see me cry. It's unlikely we'll be back there anytime soon. Yet I'm certain the girls understood that just because you don't see someone everyday or even every year, it doesn't make your love for them any less. 

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

1st of da month

Goodbye April. 

The month where I turned 45.

Here are my April #smallmercies

Has it been April showers or fun in the Springshine for you?

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

1st of da month (a belated one)

A very belated Goodbye March. 

The month where I was in charge of small children running around with pretend laser guns, kicked off the birthday season at TwickersTowers, got all inspired around amazing females, dusted off my career and discovered I can't leave my house without wanting to write a new story with new characters.

Here are my March #smallmercies

Did March disappear quickly for you too?

And as for you April - well that's also disappeared in a blur hasn't it?

Monday, 24 April 2017

shout, shout, let it all out

Copyright: <a href=''>sifotography / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Back in my early teaching days, if we were celebrating someone's birthday with the usual slab of cake in the staffroom we would give that someone carte blanche to have a rant and a rave. This was the birthday rant. About anything and to anyone, but it could only last on your birthday.

Needless to say no-one ever took up the mantle seriously but we would all have a 'giggle' at who we'd choose to unleash our birthday rant to. Usually that kid who took it upon themselves to make your Monday period 1 lesson a living hell or the suit in the office that had forgotten what a classroom looked like but insisted on telling you what you were doing wrong.

No, we all took the higher ground. Unless the birthday celebrations went on too late and got a little too messy that night. Suddenly, everyone would be claiming their birthday rant!

But doesn't age give you that right to, how shall I put it, give people a piece of your mind? I'm spending some time considering this because I still cringe at the times when, upon discovering the price of an untagged item at the till, my mum had no qualms about complaining "How much? That's ridiculous, put it back Nicola" and I'd have to skulk away with burning cheeks back along the queuing aisle. Why couldn't she just pay it and return it later? I'd think with my no-responsibility-no-damn-clue-attitude.

However, it was her money, her choice, her right to raise her voice wasn't it? Maybe. And I do find myself irked more and more about poor customer service, the behaviour of people in the street or in their cars (don't get me started on kids without seatbelts) and yes, things that are ridiculously priced.

So perhaps Mum was right to voice her consumer distaste.  Maybe we do get to a point in our lives where we think Nope I'm gong to have to say something about this. Whether it's paying a joke for a plain white t-shirt or when the shop owner in the village corner shop doesn't look you in the eye or thank you for your custom but is happy to take your money. 

I don't think ranting is in my nature but I can certainly string together a strong word or two.  And maybe I'll wait to re-enact the whole How much? scenario to embarrass my own three  daughters another time day will come.

Until then, I will continue to save my tirades for the TV...I'm good at that.

Monday, 13 March 2017

if i had a photograph of you

Do you have a plethora of family photos scattered all over your house?

Or are you one of those organised people who manages to get all your loved ones in one place to pose for a professional shoot?

Are you happy with the obligatory school uniform grimace or have you forgotten what colour your living room is because of all the holiday snaps adorning your walls. 

Or maybe you don't have any; for one reason or another.

I love a good photo. Now this sentence will have my Father chomping at the bit as I spent the greater part of my teens turning the other cheek before the shutter clicked.  I hated my photo being taken.  Still do.

But I do love to see family photos on my walls; meticulously levelled up the staircase, lovingly angled on every spare windowsill, protruding from holiday sand-filled bottles on shelves, perched on any unused flat surface I can find. And I love going into other people's houses and looking at all their family photos too. A physiognomy ancestry before my very eyes.

My goodness, she's the spit of your sister. 

Yes, she has your eyes doesn't she?

Which side of the family is he from?

Is that your childhood house?

And then there's my fridge. Magnets are demoted in favour of old passport photos and random images from disposable cameras that were fortunate enough to be in focus.  

The photos in our home tell of school, yes, and holidays, yes and of course weddings. But they also tell of that day when she wouldn't listen and the day I was glad I carried a change of clothes in the boot of the car and the day when we knew it was serious and the day our lives changed forever. These photos will tell stories when we forget the minutiae of the moments.

If truth be told, in this digital age of disappearing images, I harbour a secret desire to fill one entire wall in a collage of us. But something tells me that it wouldn't just stop there.  

This post was inspired by The Photographer's Gallery: