Sunday, 31 July 2011

The other Royal wedding

Having recovered from the excitement of the previous Royal Wedding this summer, the Royal Family celebrated another this weekend.  The Queen’s eldest granddaughter, Zara Phillips married Rugby star Mike Tindall. 

I have relatively few unmarried friends and none of their children are old enough to get married.  So it’s only the reporting of these events that has made me think about marriage.  And of course, I can’t help but think back to my own.

To me it was a new beginning.  I’d found the person I wanted to share my life with, have kids with and everything that marriage entails.  We had a great relationship and strong friendship.  But to me personally, the most special thing about that relationship was the sharing of the minutiae of life. 

Forget the sex, the romantic holidays and all the big stuff.  To me, having someone who you can discuss your day with, debate what you’re having for supper, and who remembers to ask whether your boss continued to be a shit today, is what it’s all about.  And that’s the bit I really miss.

Seeing a young couple getting married, knowing that they have so many hopes and dreams for the future, makes me feel sad that my hopes and dreams were not fulfilled.  It also makes me wonder whether I would do it again.

I have very mixed feelings about it. 

Firstly, I feel that marriage is about having kids.  If, like me, you don’t want any more – does it really matter?

Secondly, marriage is about kids.  Yes – that’s not a typo.  As a mother, I have to consider their futures.  I don’t want them to have a tarnished attitude towards marriage.  I want them to know that people can have loving marriages.  There will be situations where people fall out of love and no longer want to be together, but equally, there are others which, with a bit of work from both parties, succeed.  I worry that, without witnessing two people working at a marriage, resolving their problems and being happy, they will grow up thinking you get divorced as soon as things get tough.

And thirdly, marriage is about kids…  again.  I don’t want to be in a situation where men come into and out of my life.  I think it would be damaging for two impressionable young people have to get used to living with a man who’s not their father, develop a relationship with him, and then have to cope with him leaving.

I’m not suggesting that if I re-married it would be a guaranteed success in a way that living with someone couldn’t be.  But I think people think a lot harder about getting married than they do about living with someone.

I may feel differently about this in the future, but for now, I don’t think I’d choose to live with someone I’m not married to.  I have no moral or religious influences in this decision.  I just want to know that the other person is committed enough to make me his wife before I bring someone into my kids daily lives.

It is of course a moot point right now.  After the demise of Tall Dark Handsome Guy, there has been absolutely zero talent on the horizon!  I wouldn’t say I’m desperate, but I am beginning to wonder whether there’s anyone at all out there…

But for now, I wish Zara and her new husband every happiness.  And I hope their dreams for the future do pan out. 

Friday, 29 July 2011

The end of the week....

Thank God It’s Friday!

Yes – it’s Friday AGAIN…

It’s only been a couple of days since the kids left for their holiday with their Dad.  The house seems so quiet without the shrieking and laughter.  I always moan about the kids fighting and driving me mad.  But now that they’re not here, I have actually realized that whilst they undoubtedly fight, they also have a lot of fun and laughter together. 

In fact, there is a very certain laugh that the little one has, which you only ever hear when the big one is ‘entertaining’ him.  It’s like they have some secret language that no one else would understand.  And the laugh is so deep and guttural for such a small child, I can’t help but start giggling when I hear it.

I’m really tired.  I’m going to watch TV in my jammies with a glass of wine and enjoy “me time”.  Well, I say I’m going to enjoy it… but I can’t help but wonder what my little monkeys are up to.  Must stop thinking about it!  Hope they call me tonight.

More tomorrow when I’m less knackered and feeling myself again!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Make love and clutch the chukka

As I sat in the pub last night with a group of ladies I have recently met, my iPhone ‘pinged’ the following message at me:

“Make love and clutch the chukka!”

According to the person who sent the message, (you know who you are!), that is ‘posh’ talk for getting laid!

And you may well wonder why I was having that kind of conversation via private Tweets… Well, I’m not up to anything.  Sadly, my life just isn’t that exciting!  But the banter between myself and various Tweeters has been keeping me entertained.  And as I lay in bed this morning re-reading and clearing out my in-box, I was pondering the nature of on-line relationships vs face to face ones.

For the many years that I was unhappily married, I kept a great deal to myself.  And I felt very isolated.  Friends would come round and I’d flash a big smile as I greeted them.

“How are you?” they’d ask. 
“Great, thanks!” I’d reply.

But I wasn’t great – not by a mile. But social niceties don’t allow you to say what you really think.

These were the years before I re-discovered my writing and got into Twitter.  And it’s been a revolution.  When I’m online, I no longer have to flash the smile and pretend.  I have no qualms saying:

“I’m having a shit day!  And you?”

And the responses are equally honest.  Why wouldn’t they be?  These anonymous people have nothing to prove – so why wouldn’t they say what they mean and mean what they say?

Being quite shy, I have a terrible problem with blushing.  I blush so easily it makes me cringe.  I can feel the heat rising in my cheeks and I just want the ground to open and swallow me up…  But online – you can’t blush.  And even if I did, no one could see!

And so it crossed my mind that in many ways, these online relationships are far more genuine than face to face ones.  Online, we don’t have to follow the same set of social rules.  We can say things to people that we really want to say, but don’t have the cohunes to say face to face.

That said, there are certain unwritten ‘rules’ when it comes to Twitter etc.  And occasionally I break them (like asking for an RT, which I do sometimes shamelessly do.  RT stands for re-tweet, for those not familiar with Twitter).  But then I enjoy breaking the ‘rules’ in my normal life – so that is true to myself!

But as genuine as these relationships may be, they should never take over.  Many people use a pseudonym to protect their identity online – so you don’t ‘really’ know who they are.  And if you don’t even know who they are, you certainly can’t meet them at the pub!  So unless you want to be a sad geek, sitting on your own at home every evening, you will always need ‘real’ friends.  But online ones?  They’re a really great addition.

If someone said to my face that I should “make love and clutch the chukka” I would blush to the roots of my hair and then mumble something incoherent.  But online, my response was, well – I’m not sure I want to tell you…  But I can assure you it was a very genuine reply!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Absence makes the heart grow stronger

It’s the summer holidays and tomorrow the kids are going on holiday with their Dad for a week.  Like most recently divorced parents, this is the “new normal” for the summer holidays.  A week or two with one parent, and a vice versa.  And it’s not something I’m quite used to yet.

I am not going to pretend that I am Super Mum.  I love my kids more than the world but, like most of us, there are moments when I would, just for a short spell, like to loan them out to someone else.

If you’re a parent, you know the moments I mean.  The ones where they’ve got really bored with each other, so they start to fight.  And it’s then only a matter of time before one of them ends up crying: 

“He hit me!”

“She started it.”

“It’s MY Nintendo.”

“I hate you.”

Etc etc…

And so, the reason I’ve not managed to get a post up for the last couple of days is that I have been acting as referee to the Lakin kids, whilst simultaneously:

Taking them out to meet their friends.
Organising everything they need for their holiday.
Making sure the dogs get a walk, so they don’t destroy the house.
Trying to go to the gym.
Cooking pancakes and fork biscuits.
The list goes on and on and on….

Anyway, today I received an email from His Highness.

“I need them at my house by 12.30, at the latest.”  It said.

I didn’t rise to the bait.  I’m not his secretary, or a lowly employee.  I’m the mother of his children, who ensures their health and happiness whilst he is busy being… well… imperious.  But I’m not going to have a rant right now!

That’s not what this is about.

This is about how I feel having to spend a week without the kids.

I know that the kids will be safe and returned at a set time next week.  On the positive side, it gives me a week to get on with the tonne of paperwork and other tedious jobs that are hard to manage with the kids around.

Knowing that I will be alone in the evenings, various friends have kindly invited me out for most of the evenings that they’re away.  And I’m really looking forward to it.

But as much as the kids may drive me round the bend, I will miss them.  And I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder and familiarity breeds contempt.” was one of my mother’s favourite expressions.  And she had a point. 

How much can we ever appreciate something that is constantly ‘in our face’? 

I have always enjoyed holidays with my kids, but sometimes they’ve been really hard work. 

For those of you without kids – just imagine having to do all the really tedious domestic jobs you do at home, but with only half the time saving equipment…

When kids are little, that is often what holidays are like.

As I jotted a few things down on their ‘holiday packing list’ that the eldest decided to start writing yesterday, I had a pang of sadness.

I want them to spend time with their father – it’s very important that they have this time with him.  And it’s good for me that I will be able to get things done during normal daytime – rather than at 1.00am.

But yes.  I’ll miss them.  And I’m going to savour missing them and thinking only of the things I love about having them around. 

In an ideal world, I would still be married to their father and we would be going away together.   But it isn’t an ideal world.  And I made a choice. 

The upside is that I have time to reflect.  Time to miss my kids and remind myself of all that is good about them.  And there’s a lot of good in them.

And when they return, I hope I’ll be in a positive frame of mind to be a good mother to them for the rest of the summer.  Maybe not Super Mum, but a good Mum nonetheless.

Fingers crossed!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

It's not about Amy Winehouse...

There’s been lots of talk of Amy Winehouse’s demise today.  Like most people – I think it’s very sad.  A young woman with huge talent, dragged under by mental health problems.

But not everyone has been so kind.  There have been comments about her demise being self-inflicted – because of her drug and alcohol abuse.

Like most people – I didn’t know her so I’m not going to pass any judgement.  I do however have strong feelings about people’s attitude to mental illness.  And if one good thing comes out of her death, I hope it is a better understanding of it.

My own experience of mental health problems is second hand.  But it has had a huge impact on me recently. 

A few months ago, an old school friend came to stay.  We rarely see each other, as Jamie lives abroad.  On this last visit, we had one evening on our own together.  Probably the only evening we have had alone together for nearly 20 years.  And as the wine went down and we chatted into the early hours, Jamie told me something that truly shocked me.

At the age of four, Jamie had his first break down.  He remembers it vividly.  It was his birthday party – a day every four year old should relish.  But it all got too much for him – really too much, to the point he felt almost paralysed, like the world was crashing in on him.  So he crawled under a table, put his hands over his ears, and refused to come out. 

As a parent, I can imagine that his parents would have thought it nothing more than over tired behaviour.  And it was only retrospectively that Jamie recognised it for what it was.  

As he grew up, Jamie had several more of these incidents.  But each time, the effects lasted longer and were harder to shake off.

Finally, after a year at university, he had a really bad break down.  It wasn’t that he couldn’t get out of bed in the morning.  He couldn’t get out of bed at all.  So he ended up in hospital where they subjected him to a cocktail of horrendous medications, with dreadful side effects and finally, when they didn’t work, a course of ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy). 

For those of you who don’t know, ECT involves passing a current through the brain to produce an epileptic fit.  For Jamie, it was a dreadful experience and it didn’t make him better. 

Eventually he left hospital, with a cocktail of anti-depressants, and went travelling.  On this trip he had his final ‘episode’.  He was working on a boat, which had been at sea for several days.  The weather had been dreadful and Jamie had terrible seasickness. He finally reached the point where the world seemed to close in on him and he just couldn’t cope any more.   But this time he had the strength to get help.  In the depths of his depression he managed to summon the will power to get on the radio to the coast guard. 

The coast guard came and took him back to land and he eventually recovered.  But he also realised that for the first time, he had been able to summon the strength to ‘do something about it’.  It was a turning point in his life.

Subsequent to this final episode, he found a fantastic doctor who changed his whole drug regime.  It has changed his life.  And he has not had another bout of depression since.  But he will have to continue to take medication all his life.

I was really stunned to hear all of this.  I knew that he had been in hospital and had even visited.  But at the time, I had teenage issues of my own to deal with and wasn’t really equipped to understand.

The old “why didn’t you tell me” sprung to my lips.  Even as I said it, I realised the answer.

“Well, you know… It’s kind of hard to explain to people.”  He said. 

But what he really meant was:  People don’t understand.  People don’t like to talk about it for fear of the social reaction to it – you’ve heard the comments:

“He’s a bit of a weirdo.”  “She’s an oddball.”  “He’s a bit funny in the head”.

If someone had cancer, kidney failure, or heart disease they would receive sympathy and understanding.  It’s about time this kindness and understanding was extended to those with mental health problems.

Personally I think it’s the fear of what is unknown that causes this reaction.  If people had more information it would be less scary. 

I’m not a doctor, so I’m not in a position to advise.  But it might surprise you to know how common mental health problems are.  They need to be talked about more freely, so that those suffering from them don’t feel so isolated.

And on that note, I’m going to sign off with a few statistics from the Mental Health Foundation:

It is estimated that about 450 million people world wide have a mental health problem.

About 10% of children have a mental health problem at any one time.

Suicide remains the most common cause of death in men under the age of 35.

British men are three times more likely to commit suicide than British women.

About 8-12% of the population suffer depression in any one year.

And yes – it could be you….

Food for thought….?

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Forget your pants.... Go commando....

This afternoon I took the boys for a swim.  Nothing odd about that, I hear you say.  And you’re right.  The only thing that’s different is that we went at a time of day that we never normally go.

As I sat in the mixed steam room with three strangers, a head bobbed round the door.

“Excuse me” it said, “have any of you seen my pants?”

And there she was, a vision of…. well… Hmmm.  How to describe her?  OK – she was probably at least 75 years old, wearing a knitted woolly hat, thick woolly ankle socks, a dress, and a rather confused expression.

“No, sorry, we haven’t!” came our reply, as we all stifled our laughter.  And off she went.

Later, when I went to the changing rooms, she was still there.  She didn’t seem to remember having asked me before, so again she asked if I knew the whereabouts of her pants.  Clearly, she was very confused.  It did even cross my mind that the woolly hat on her head might in fact be a pair of knickers.

“It’s not the end of the world” she continued.  “I can easily go home without them.” 

It’s puerile, I know, but I couldn’t help but comment “Good job it’s not a windy day!”

Finally, after a further 10 minutes fruitless searching, she gave up the hunt and went home.  And I began to think.

In 30-40 years time, that could be me.  I wondered whether she was developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.  Does she have children or family who are aware of her condition and keep an eye out for her?

I always remember as a child, visiting my Grandfather in hospital.  He was in a ward full of elderly people, of varying mental capacity, who didn’t seem to have a single visitor between them.  Even as a seven year old, I could appreciate how sad it was.  So as I started to get dressed, I decided that I would have a word with the staff, to see whether she had any ‘next of kin’ or someone they could alert about her confused state.

And that’s when I discovered…. Damn it… I’d lost my pants!  No, seriously.  I had no pants in my bag.  I started to get the giggles about it.  The prospect of being demented seemed suddenly much more real. 

So I had a word with the staff as I left, in the hope that they would find someone to call about this poor old woman.

And me? I went home commando.  And the kids are STILL laughing about it…

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The 40-something Lesbian…

Before I start getting a barrage of abuse, I want to make it clear that I have no issue with anyone’s sexuality.  Unless I’m naked in a bedroom with someone, I don’t really think that their sexual preferences are any of my business. 

The issue I have, is when a heterosexual married mother decides, in the midst of a mid-life crisis (and with little thought for the consequences), to leave her husband for a woman, causing carnage along the way.

I have no doubt that there are occasions where a lesbian couple can provide a happier and more stable home for children, than a dysfunctional or abusive heterosexual marriage.  However, it is the circumstances and transition from one to the other which should be carefully considered.

I know quite a few adults who were adopted as kids.  They variously: got on, or didn’t with their adopted parents; wanted/didn’t want to find their birth parents; had happy/ unhappy childhoods.  But the one thing they had in common was the knowledge that, like it or not, they were adopted. 

They didn’t have to discover, during those fragile teenage years, that they had been lied to all their life.

Is discovering that your mother is not heterosexual, after years of marriage to your father, a similar thing?  I think it is.

I have no doubt that there are women out there who have been so socially conditioned to believe that happiness lies in marriage (to a man) and kids, that they do not even stop to consider whether they are attracted to women.  I can see why, at a later stage of life, they might realize that their sexual interest lies elsewhere.  The luster of early marriage has long worn off, the kids are more independent, and all of a sudden there is an awakening.  It often seems to happen around the age of 40!

From my own personal experience, turning 40 was a crux point in my marriage.  It was the point at which I stood back to assess my life.  And I wasn’t happy with what I saw.  In fact, after a very long deliberation, it was the point at which I decided to leave my husband. 

I did not take this decision lightly.  I was more than aware of the impact it would have on my children.  But I could see that the unhappy situation I was in, if it continued, would be even more damaging than divorce.

By leaving when I did, I was trying to achieve ‘damage limitation’.  It was hugely important to me that things should end before they got ‘nasty’ – ie before one of us ended up having an affair.

It seems these days that 40’s are the new 20’s and anything goes.  But when women change track at this point in life, is it really an awakening, or is it just a mid-life crisis? Are they just ‘trying out new things’, giving in to predatory behaviour, or do they really believe that they are a lesbian?

I do not think that people should be forced to live a lie – but the stakes are high.   When anyone is discovered to be having an affair, it causes untold misery.  But when the “affair” is homosexual, it is even more devastating.  It calls into question everything the marriage ever stood for, and suggests that for one party at least, it was a complete lie.  Again – like a teenager discovering they’re adopted.

If the realization of homosexuality is the issue for your marriage breakdown, then do the decent thing, as I would implore any heterosexual to do.  Leave your husband BEFORE you get involved with anyone else.

No one should have to live a lie – but consider the consequences and don’t leave everyone else thinking that you have permanently deceived them.

And remember, if you go down this path, the damage is done and you can never turn back.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Boredom - the mother of all invention

The summer holidays

Today is the first day of the summer holidays.  And this being England, the sky is dark, it’s raining and I’m wondering what the hell I’m going to do for the next two months.

I don’t want to be one of those women who are permanently negative about looking after their children.  I love mine to bits and on the whole, they’re fairly well behaved.  And as they always get re-invited to play with friends, I can only assume they behave well at other people’s houses.

But the holidays are long and kids get bored.

So what are the options?

For me the usual activities are: the museums; swimming; arranging play dates with friends (which isn’t always that easy when everyone’s away on holidays); football in the park; a couple of trips to the cinema and large amounts of alcohol for me!

Many of my friends look horrified that I haven’t got them booked into six weeks boot camp and two weeks on a family holiday.  Sorry – when I say ‘boot camp’, I do of course mean holiday clubs.

But I have an issue with this permanent ‘entertainment’ to keep the kids out of your hair. 

There is no doubt that the summer is a long schlep.  When I was a kid, we lived in the country, miles from anywhere, with no other kids to play with.  My mother’s response to my boredom was always:

“Why don’t you go and play in the garden?  You don’t know how lucky you are to have such a big garden to play in!” 

I like gardens, now, as an adult.  But as a kid, there’s a limit to how much you can do in one if there’s no one else to play with.

“Take the dog with you.”  My mother would then say.  Well, even the dog got bored and stopped bringing the ball back.

So, I invariably went back up to my room and read another book.  Got bored.  Had a fight with my sibling when they were there etc.  That was 30 or so years ago, but kids don’t change, do they?

I don’t want my kids to have quite such a boring summer as the ones I had.  But they have a very ordered and organised time during the term, and by the time the holidays come round they are exhausted.  They haven’t had time to play with the millions of toys they get given for their birthdays and have had very little ‘down time’. 

I do really believe that boredom is the mother of invention.  They are no longer so little that they need constant parental supervision and as they can both read, they can play games without my help.

The lack of organised activities undoubtedly means that I have to do more than just dropping off and collecting from holiday clubs.  Even as I type this, I can hear the pair of them upstairs screaming with laughter because they’re doing something I know they shouldn’t.  In fact, I think they’re flooding the bathroom.  Shit, shit and double shit.  But there’s a lesson in that:  you make a mess - you clear it up!

I want them to have an education in life.  And by that, I mean learning that going to the supermarket may be boring – but then again, if you go to the shop, you get to choose what you eat.  They will even be given the kids cookery book and get the chance to write a list of the ingredients needed to make something for their own supper once a week.

They will also learn that their desire to have a new dog means they have to walk it EVERY day.  Even when it’s raining and they’d rather play their Nintendos.

But most important of all, they will get to spend time with each other – time which I hope, when they’re older, they will look back on with affection.  They will hopefully have forged a bond that will last them a lifetime, because it will have been built on the need to take turns, share and look to each other for friendship. 

I’m not suggesting that none of these can be learnt in a holiday club, but I think there’s a difference between being ‘taught’ and ‘learning for yourself’.  And in a holiday club, they would not be together.

I have no doubt that there will be many moments this summer when I wish, like many others, they were booked into clubs so I can get a break.  But in the long run, I hope that they will become independent, self-reliant and have an enduring friendship with each other.

Here’s hoping… and where’s the corkscrew?

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Farewell American Housewife in London

Yesterday I had to say ‘goodbye’ to my dear and close friend, the American Housewife in London (AHL).

We have known each other since our children started school together.  And right from the start, we hit it off.  We have variously shared the trials and joys of raising small kids (sometimes laughing, sometimes wanting to scream) and AHL has been hugely supportive during the trauma of my divorce. 

She’s also collected my youngest from school on the millions of occasions where hope has triumphed over experience, and I’m late AGAIN! 

I won’t just miss the cups of tea, the laughter and sympathy whilst I wait for the eldest to finish school.  I will miss the familiarity that allows me to go into her kitchen and help myself to a cup of tea. 

I also have her to thank for giving me the confidence to get writing again, showing me how to insert the Vagazzaling clip from You Tube onto my blog (!), and responding to my endless e-mails asking for advice.

We have had moments when we have cried with laughter and others where I have cried with grief – and been given a tissue and a hug. 

Friendships like these are rare.  That’s why I’ll miss her so much.

It’s making me cry as I write this.  Where are the bloody tissues when you need one!

This one’s for you American Housewife in London!  And hurry back and visit.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Respect - and the battle of the sexists...

I’ve been thinking hard about the whole News of the World debacle this week.  It’s hard to avoid!  Everyone’s up in arms, shocked, horrified, disgusted, appalled etc etc.  But,

Q:  What made it such a huge successful paper in the first place? 
A:  The public’s enjoyment at reading about the antics of people in the public eye – with no respect for their private lives.  Relishing their humiliation.

It’s a supply and demand thing.  If the public hadn’t demanded it, they wouldn’t have supplied it.  We may not personally have hacked into people’s phones and e-mail, but the people didn’t stop reading, did they? 

And in the midst of all this, I read a post on ThinkingFox entitled “Lacking Respect”.  It outlines the writers’ concerns about his son’s behaviour and respectfulness to his mother.  It’s worth a read – it’s on my blog list.

All I can think is: what’s wrong with society today, where’s the respect?

Can’t we all just stop for a minute?  Stop the fighting, bitching and criticism.

Men and women; children and parents; employees and employers should all respect each other.  It’s a two-way street.

But they don’t do they?  It’s all gone horribly, horribly wrong.  And whilst we are all so busy fighting about what we want and promoting our views, society is crumbling around our ears.

Speaking from the perspective of a woman (because I am one!) I want to know why people assume that if a man has good manners (gives up his seat on the tube, holds doors open etc), that he is automatically a male chauvinist pig?  How does having good manners translate into regarding women as second class citizens?

I hold doors open for people and have given up my seat on the tube.  I think it’s just good manners.  Treating others as we would like to be treated.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I had encounters with two very different types of men.  Firstly, a young man sat staring at my eight months pregnant bump, purposely making eye contact whilst I struggled to stay standing on a tube train.  Eventually, I couldn’t help snapping at him and pointed out that he was sitting in a seat with a sign above it, which said it was reserved for people with a greater need to sit down!  As he left the train his parting shot was “good luck finding the father”.  What a misogynistic, nasty little shit. 

My other encounter was with a man who was standing at the far end of the carriage from me.  Seeing I was pregnant, but not having a seat to give me himself, his voice rang down the carriage: “Excuse me Madam, would you like someone to give you their seat?”.  Half a dozen embarrassed people then stood up.  It made my day! What a lovely man. 

What type of person would you rather encounter, or be?

We need to stop jumping to conclusions and taking offence at other people’s good behaviour.  And wouldn’t it be better for everyone if we didn’t just accept that we’re all different, but embraced it – “Vive la difference”, as the French would say! 

You don’t have to agree with everyone’s views, you don’t even have to like them.   But for goodness sake, have some respect.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Are you a sad, desperate, Bunny Boiler...? Take the test...

The sad desperate bunny boiler test….

Do YOU do any of the following when it comes to men:

1.  Go to see them wearing a Muffin top – ensuring lots of flesh is hanging out over your trousers.

2.  Invite a man to a ‘party’, but not telling him it’s a party for two.  Set the scene:  light the scented candles; dim the lights; get out the massage oil.  Dress to kill.  And just watch the expression on his face when he sees what you have in store…

3.  Tip the contents of your entire makeup collection onto your dressing table.  Endeavour to apply every single item of makeup at once.  No, really.  You’ll look fabulous!

4.  Put on something you wore when you were 20 to make yourself feel young again – even though it doesn’t really fit any more.

5.  Patent red stilettos and fishnet stockings.  It’s a “must”.

6.  Find out what activities he’s involved with and join every club he’s a member of.   And when you keep bumping into him, greet him with the words “Wow!  Fancy bumping into you here!”

7.  Let him know you’re interested in him.  Keep tabs on him.  Drive past his house late at night etc, and then tell him you saw he was back late on Monday night.

8.  Set up a Facebook ‘fan’ page, with just you as a member, and invite him to join

9.  Ask him questions about himself and then continually interrupt him.

10. If you don’t get an immediate response from a phone message, then text, email, and Facebook him, leaving the same message every time.

If you answered “yes” to more than one of these questions… you are, without a doubt, a bunny boiler.  Get a grip.  Take up a hobby. Stop being ‘desperate’.  And get out there.

And yes… this is just my sense of humour getting the better of me…!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Kids? Love 'em - but couldn't eat a whole one....

Sharing your kids success

Like most parents out there, I really love my kids. 

They are alternately funny, cheeky, naughty, kind and thoughtful.  And as they share the same gene pool, I clearly think that they are beautiful!

Enough, I hear you say, as you reach for the bucket!  We all love our kids and we all think that they’re better than everyone else’s.  It is right and proper that we feel this way.  But it can be irritating to constantly hear other people bragging about their kids.

When you’re on your own, you don’t have another adult to share the joy of your kids’ success.  And that’s quite hard. 

This thought crossed the mind of a friend of mine the other day.  And so she very kindly rang me up to tell me:  “I hear that your little one won the 200m race at school the other day.  You must be so thrilled.”  She then went on to make the exact point I’ve made above.  She told me that she thinks my kids are great and that I should be really proud of them.  I am.  And it was wonderful to be able to have the congratulatory conversation I would previously have had with my husband.

It was a kind and thoughtful thing to do.  The impact of an act of kindness can never be underestimated. 

I am, of course, incredibly proud of my kids.  I’m not saying that to brag or be irritating.  It’s just that sometimes I need to be able to tell someone!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Something for the weekend, Sir?

To me, the very thought of going into a shop and asking for a pack of condoms is excruciating.

When I was a teenager, my best friend Sarah had a Saturday job in a branch of a large chain of chemists (no I’m not going to advertise for them!).

One day, whilst shopping with a friend who didn’t know Sarah, we decided it would be amusing if she approached her and asked where the condoms were.  As I watched from a distance, Sarah went bright red, and in a fluster showed her where they were.  By this stage, my friend was really getting into the swing of it.  She started asking what the differences were and which ones she would recommend.  At this point, seeing that Sarah was about to die of embarrassment, I decided to show myself.  She nearly killed me and I don’t think she’s ever forgiven me!  But it was really funny!

But in today’s modern world, all joking apart, safe sex is an important issue.  But I can’t help feeling there must be some kind of etiquette to it.

If, as a woman, you whip out a pack of condoms when the heat of the moment demands it, will a man think that you’re a bit of a tart?  Does it suggest a level of planning and an assumption that the man finds you attractive?

By the same token, if a man comes round to your place, and just happens to have a condom on him, does this mean that he thinks your ‘easy’ – or is he just a bit of a tart?

And then of course there’s the question of how you go about buying condoms.  It makes me think of a sketch on a comedy program years ago, where an embarrassed young man goes up to the till to buy condoms.  The cashier rings the bell for assistance, holds the packet in the air and shouts across the shop “how much are Durex?”.  The expression on the young man’s face makes you wonder whether the experience put him off sex for life!

Fortunately, nowadays we have on-line shopping.  A friend of mine made me howl with laughter, telling me she gets the Ocado man to deliver them!  For women like me, who get embarrassed and blush really badly, I think it’s a damn fine idea!  My only concern would be if they were out of stock….  What would they offer as a substitution?  A pregnancy test?

As a single woman, trying to get out there on the dating scene, it is something that has to be considered.  I’m not suggesting that I’m planning on having sex with every man I meet.  I’m just not that type.  But at some point I hope to have sex again!   And as such I think we’ve just got to be grown-up and mature about it. 

A friend of mine (the one who does Ocado!) gave me her take on the subject.  Make sure you’ve got a pack hidden in the drawer – just in case.  But wait to see if the man produces one first.  That way, you might save yourself from embarrassment and if not, at least you don’t have to worry.

So I, Lara Lakin, promise not to think badly of a man who shows up with a pack of condoms, and I hope that he will be equally mature and not think me a slapper if I have to rummage around at the back of my knickers drawer!!!

Now, where’s the shopping list….

PS – about the substitution, my friend Julian has just turned up…  apparently he recently ordered Andrex toilet wipes when online shopping.  They didn’t have any, so they substituted it with Tena Lady pads (that’s incontinence pads in case you didn’t know!).

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Mumsnet - I'm disappointed

How dare she…?

I had a phone call yesterday (Wednesday July 6th) from a friend of mine…

“Have you seen The Times today?  There’s a woman, doing a blog, just like you! She’s a divorced mum of two and blogging about relationships.  It's going to be on Mumsnet.”

I raced out to buy a copy and discovered, to my horror, the most negative and miserable representation of 40-something divorcees. 

But it didn’t stop there.  The writer, calling herself  ‘Plankton’, has dismissed a large section of single men as “… hog-wimperingly ugly, sexually diseased, hellishly promiscuous, arrogant, humourless, boring or teenagers.”

Her description of 40 something divorcees is no more flattering:  “a single woman of a certain age…  is a mere plankton in the food chain of sexuality… flimflam, a nuisance, an embarrassment of landfill”.  Oh, and I mustn’t forget “married men pity us”.

She claims that people tell her she’s “not ready for a relationship”.  D’ya think…?

Too bloody right!  With such a negative attitude, how can she possibly think that men are going to be drawn to her?

I’m actually too pissed off to write any more today.

I’m going to write to The Times.  And I mean it.  I think this needs to be addressed.

Yours  - really pissed off – Lara Lakin

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Tall Dark Handsome Guy – closure at last

I have mentioned Tall Dark Handsome Guy before.  What I haven’t said is that after what I thought was a one and only date, he got in touch again and we saw each other a few times.

And then, again, he just went silent on me.

Finally, after weeks of angst, I bumped into Tall Dark Handsome Guy.  I’d be lying if I said it was entirely coincidental that I bumped into him!

I was fully aware that the relationship, which hadn’t even quite got going, had already ended.  I was gutted, because it’s the first time in a long while that I had met someone I genuinely thought was a ‘possibility’ and I just didn’t want to let him off the hook. 

Why should anyone put themselves through serious angst, when it can be eased by taking the opportunity to tell the person who has hurt us how we feel.

So I put myself in the right place, at the right time, to bump into him.

The conversation didn’t exactly go as planned, he seemed very uncomfortable and he left without having heard what I wanted to say.

I seized the bull by the horns and sent him an email. 

“You hurt me.  After everything I’ve been through during the last two years, I didn’t need it.”

His reply was short.

“Sorry.  But I think we’re both in the same boat.  We need to just enjoy life and not get too involved with relationships at the moment.”

Not the best response he could have given.  After all, it’s not his place to presume to know my feelings. But he did at least apologise.

I wish it had been different – but I’m glad that I have forced him to face the effect his behaviour has had on anther person.  If nothing else, it may make him behave better the next time.

I don’t think he’s a bad person.  I just think he behaved badly.  And if truth be told, I don’t think there’s any one of us who can honestly say we haven’t, at some point, hurt another through our careless behaviour.

As a final farewell, I told him that I realise we are both deeply wounded by the breakdown of our respective marriages, and I genuinely wish him happiness.

I feel much better for having told him how I feel.

And as for wishing him happiness... in all honesty, I really do!

Monday, 4 July 2011


When I was a teenager, I was (and there’s no false modesty here) a bit of a sight!

My mother came from that post war “waste not want not” generation. She insisted on making me the most hideous clothes. She cut my hair (appallingly). But I never had spots… you don’t when you have chronic eczema…! Oh, nearly forgot, I also had glasses!

My teenage years were excruciating. The boys recoiled at the sight of me!

And then one day, just to make matters worse, I had a conversation with my mother about a girl we knew, who had blossomed into really stunning young woman.

“Do you think I’ll ever be pretty, like Jane?” I asked?

I saw an evil glint in my mothers’ eyes as she replied: “Well, it’s a shame you’ve got a big nose and a fat bottom.”

In my adult mind, I know it was said to be hurtful. And it was! I was cut to the quick. I only had to look in the mirror to know I was no oil painting, but now I had to add a fat bottom to the equation!

How I didn’t end up with anorexia, I will never know. But I did ‘dabble’ with my food. I couldn’t control anything else, but I could sure as hell control my weight. So I did. And I lost a massive amount of it.

It was only recently that an old school friend told me that, having not seen me for a while after we left school, she and a couple of friends had been shocked and alarmed by my newly diminutive frame.

That conversation with my mother happened over 25 years ago. But it still affects me today.

Since that time, I no longer have eczema; I wear contact lenses; I have my hair cut by a fabulous hairdresser; and I have just recently managed to shoe-horn my ‘fat bottom’ into a pair of UK size 8 jeans (that’s US size 6, for those of you over the pond).

In my intellectual mind, I know that I’m not the hideous creature of my teenage years. I may not be beautiful to everyone (it’s subjective, right?), but I am attractive to some. And I know that no one cranes a fat bottom into size 8 jeans. But in my emotions, I am still the girl with the big nose and the fat bottom.

On the flip side, I knew a girl when I was 16 who was stunning (and she knew it!). I met her again five years later. I have a good memory for faces, but I honestly didn’t recognize her. She had gained a great deal of weight, and without wishing to sound cruel, had really lost her looks. Unfortunately for her, she had the slightly superior and patronizing manner of a girl who ‘knows’ she’s more beautiful than the rest of us! I actually felt embarrassed and sorry for her.

I strongly believe that our image of ourselves during those crucial teenage years sets the pattern for life. And there’s a lesson in this for anyone bringing up girls.

Encourage the girls who may be going through a less fabulous stage, and ensure that those who blossom early learn a bit of humility…

As for me… during those awkward teenage years I had to find other ways to get by. I love to make people laugh. When I meet someone who is very serious and dry, it becomes personal challenge to make them crack a smile before the conversation is over!

And I learnt that when people are drawn to you because of who you are, not because of how you look, you end up with some fantastic friends.

Friday, 1 July 2011

10 puerile things to do this weekend...

I was way too morose yesterday - so I put this list together to make myself laugh... 

1.  Race your shopping trolley down a supermarket aisle, pick up some speed, and then ride the trolley.  (I do actually do this!)

2.  Shave an eyebrow off a sleeping friend.  If you thought this was funny when you were 20 year old students, think how much more funny it is now he’s CEO of Big Shot Plc!!!!

3.  (Boys only) Fart loudly in a packed lift, then stare accusingly at the older lady next to you.  (NB – girls can’t do this.  We don’t fart.)

4.  Get really drunk, really fast, by making cocktails from whatever booze you have lying around the house.

5.  Stay in your PJs for 48 hours ordering takeaways.  Leave the half empty containers all over the sitting room, with your cigarettes stubbed out in them, for someone else to clear up.

6.  Get a friend to drive you around town whilst you randomly fire a water pistol at total strangers.

7.  (Another one for the boys). Go to your local supermarket.  Take all the packets of condoms off the shelf, go to a female cashier, give her a wink, tell her you’re having a party, and ask if she’d like to come and bring a friend!

8.  Put clingfilm over the toilet bowl.  

9. Switch the contents of the sugar and salt containers.

10.  Watch back to back episodes of 1980’s comedy sketch shows (eg Not The 9 o’clock News), laughing raucously at all the politically incorrect jokes.

And just to help you on your way…

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