Saturday, 31 December 2011


I have been so busy over the last couple of weeks, with preparations for Christmas, school concerts and end of term activities, that I have not had the time to sit down for a minute, let alone write my blog.

I had my first Christmas Day without the kids, which upset me deeply, but unfortunately, a friend had her own crisis to deal with, which put it into perspective. 

The kids came home on Boxing Day, we were joined by their grandparents and a couple of my friends (who they are very fond of) and we had a great day.  And now, it’s New Year’s Eve.

I have never been a big one for New Year’s celebrations, but I have to admit that this year, for the first time in a very long while, I actually feel really positive.  OK – quite positive.  I mean, not leaping around whooping for joy, but a ‘looking forward’ type of feeling.

This time last year, I had moved house, spent several months with builders creating chaos in every room, but still waiting for the final stage of my divorce.  It was very unsettling for me and the kids and I was struggling to cope.

This year I start fresh as a single woman.  A mother of two fabulous children.  The buck may stop with me, but I also get to call the shots. 

I feel a sense of ‘lightness’.  I have no man, or even the possibility of a man, on the scene – and I’m OK with it. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I would dearly love to meet someone, but for the first time in my adult life, I feel stable and happy being by myself.  I have learnt to enjoy my own company a little better and to be a bit kinder to myself. 

And so tonight, I’m taking the kids to a friend’s house.  There will be a load of kids there, and I won’t know any adults except for the hosts.  And again – I’m OK with that.  At the beginning, I found it so hard to go out by myself, having been institutionalised by a 20 year relationship.  But now… I’m looking forward to getting dressed up and going out.

To get to this point has taken me almost three years. 

At the beginning, when I left my husband and the terror set in, I never imagined that I would be as at peace with myself as I am now.

For anyone out there going through the trauma of divorce – or any other trauma for that matter - you have my deepest sympathy.  Divorce is very like bereavement, it has stages, and the healing takes time.  But finally, you get to a point where suddenly, things don’t seem so bad any more and you can actually have fun.

Hang on in there.  Be strong.  And have the best possible 2012.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

New Year’s Eve – and no one to snog!

It’s that time of year again. 

The end of another year.

The New Year looms ahead, and like many people, I have started to reflect on the year gone by and wonder what lies ahead of me.

This year has been an epic one for me.  It is the year that my divorced was finalised and I started to settle, with a great deal of trepidation, into a new routine. 

The ‘rebound guy’ was finally given his marching orders and I was alone.  Living by myself with my two children and the dogs, trying to work out how to earn a living, and starting my blog. 

I finally started getting used to being on my own, not having ‘someone’ to share the finite details of my life with and realising that on the weekends when the kids are with their Dad, I could be missing for two whole days before anyone would notice.  And that’s not a nice thought.

Finally, I have galvanised myself into action to get Christmas sorted.  It’ll be the first one I spend without my children.  It’s not a pleasant thought.  Like many people who are the primary carer for their children, I can’t help feeling pissed off that having dealt with all day to day stresses and strains of the job, I am going to miss out on the fun of their Christmas Day.  But hand in hand with this, I also acknowledge that the upside is that I don’t have to deal with my ex-husband on a day to day basis.  And that is definitely a positive thing. 

In addition, I will be having a completely ‘grown-up’ Christmas, with two particularly wonderful friends.  So I won’t be alone, I will be eating turkey and I will be thoroughly looking forward to the kids return.

And now the New Year is ahead of me.  I’m not the type of person who wants to let life get me down – so, I have to take the bull by its horns and get a grip on things.

I have made some great new friends this year – and I am very grateful to them for their unstinting support and kindness.  I have also had a bit of time to lick my wounds and on the advice of a friend, have learnt to be a bit kinder to myself and not beat myself up too much.

I hate to think of myself failing – so a failed marriage has been a hard one to swallow.  But ultimately, I know that ending it was the right thing to do. 

So, in two weeks time it will be another year.  New Year’s Eve will be spent with the kids.  I may not have anyone to ‘snog’ at midnight, but I do feel a sense of peace that I haven’t experienced for a very long time.

And for the first time in years, I am a little bit more positive about what life has in store. 

So, just in case I forget when it gets nearer the time…

I would like to thank all the wonderful people who have posted messages on my blog, sent me the most lovely e-mails, or just taken the time to read what I have to say.

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a wonderful 2012.

Lara Lakin

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Is less more…?

I was listening to the radio the other day, which I don’t often do in the day time, and found myself listening to a fascinating and thought provoking interview.

The female interviewee (I will call her Anne) is a self-made multi-millionaire.  “Anne” worked hard in her field, became part of a management buy out, and some years later, sold out for (presumably) millions.  She did not reveal her identity on the programme, or specify exactly how much money she was worth.  But it was clearly a very significant amount of money.  And the point of the interview, was to discuss the impact that this sudden gain of wealth had had on her. 

Anne outlined the fears that I think I would have if I were ever lucky enough to be in her position.  Her initial response was a fear that the person closest to her (her boyfriend) would in some way feel differently about her, because of the money.  And secondly, she was concerned about the impact on their friends.

Fortunately, as far as the boy friend is concerned, they already knew each other well enough, and have subsequently married and had children.  And as for the friends, well, although some of them may well realise that Anne and her husband have ‘more’ money than the rest of their friends, they have chosen to stay away from a flashy life style, so they may not realise the scale of her wealth.

Well, I’m not a particularly money oriented person.  Like most people, the thought of knowing that I am financially secure and will never need for anything, is a very appealing one.  And I’m sure there are countless people who could think of plenty of things they would like to do if they suddenly came into a ton of money.  I don’t in anyway condemn that, but I don’t hanker after a flashy lifestyle myself. 

I fear that by increasing your spending pattern, you would inevitably end up mixing with other wealthy people.  By doing so, your own wealth would seem less, and the desire to acquire more would increase in an equal and opposite way to the enjoyment of wealth.  By existing in a bubble with other wealthy people, you cannot help but loose a sense of perspective.  And I would hate that.

And so, I found myself out with my “running buddy” the other day when the conversation turned to lifestyles.  He is the type of person who works to live and lives for his family and to cook and eat!

He has a fantastic social life and a lovely wife, who is more than happy for him to pursue his sporting and social activities.  He works for himself – so has no office politics to deal with and has enough work coming in to keep him and his family comfortable. 

His life is very straightforward.  He wouldn’t mind a new car, but is happy enough with the one he’s got.  His kids are happy at school and he has a lovely home.

Thinking about all this brought me back to the interview with Anne.  She undoubtedly had to commit a huge amount of time to her business before it sold out.  She feels a huge burden of responsibility, having so much wealth.  And she has chosen to hide her financial position from friends.  To be honest, it all sounds a bit tiring and complicated.

So I was thinking, if I had to choose to live the life of Anne, with all the wealth behind me, or my running buddy’s, whose would I choose…?

I think I know…  But who would you choose…?

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Eggshell skull – beware of the impact you have on others….

On Friday night, I decided to drop in on a friend of mine.  I had the little dog with me, who thoroughly enjoyed playing with her dog.  And us two ‘ladies’ got to have a couple of glasses of wine and a good chat.  It was a really nice evening.  And at 11pm I decided to make my way home, in a buoyant mood, ready for the weekend ahead.

As I passed the pub on the corner, my dog spotted another dog, and as is the custom amongst dog owners, I stopped to let them say ‘hello’ and made some polite remark to the other owner, about her dog being nice.

The owner of the other dog looked round at me with cold eyes, and with a slow American drawl, said:

“Really?  Well I’m just not really caring right now.”

The woman then turned back to her male companion, who started to smirk, and they continued their conversation.

Clearly, this woman’s gratuitous remark was designed to be offensive.  And it was.  I’d been in such a good mood – but I was so taken aback by the meanness of her behaviour, that I ended up walking on to the bus stop feeling very upset. 

I’m not a mean person.  I get no pleasure from hurting other people’s feelings – especially total strangers who have been polite about my dog.  And I was cross with myself for not being quicker off the mark to respond with an appropriate retort.  And her behaviour made me suddenly feel alone.  There would be no one waiting for me when I got home to give me a hug and say “she’s a bitch, don’t take any notice”, and I’m sure that’s why it stung so much. 

The following night I was out again, this time at my American friend’s party.  I mentioned to her and another American lady what had happened the night before.  We joked about the different ways that Americans phrase things – and how Brits can be rude too, but in a different way!

On the way home, I decided to take the train – only to discover that there were maintenance works on the line, and it stopped three stops short.  Way too far to walk in the cold late at night.

For the sake of safety, and because I was freezing, I decided to take a taxi.  Needless to say, everyone else who’d been on the train had had the same idea. 

Then, just as I spotted and hailed a taxi, I realised that I had slightly walked in front of another couple that were trying to get the same taxi.  I felt really bad, so I asked them where they were going.  They were going to exactly the same place as me, so I asked them if they wanted to share the taxi. 

We all bundled in and set off home.  They were a lovely couple and we chatted all the way to the top of my road, where I hopped out.  I turned to give them some money for the taxi, but they completely refused!  I really wasn’t expecting someone else to pay my fare.  It was a selfless act of kindness to a complete stranger, which I couldn’t help feeling had counterbalanced the meanness of the woman I’d met the night before.

I realise that the events of the last few years may have made me more emotional than I might otherwise be.  And maybe my reaction to the dog woman’s meanness is disproportionate.  However, there is a principle in law called “eggshell skull”.  I’m not a lawyer, so I apologise for any inaccuracies, but as I understand it, the principle is this:

If your actions cause harm to another person, you cannot use as a defence that they had an underlying condition that you could not have been aware of just by looking at them.

And you cannot use as defence the fact that the force you used would not have harmed another person and was only damaging because of the underlying condition.

I know that I have witnessed someone making what they think is a harmless remark, which has caused another person to rush off in tears.  The person who made the remark almost always responds with “What did I say?  It wasn’t that bad was it?” 

And the chances are, it wasn’t ‘bad’, just careless. 

So the whole point of this post is that carelessness and meanness can cause great upset to people, because of other issues in their lives that we know nothing about.   

And similarly, an act of kindness can ‘lift’ someone who’s having a bit of a crappy time. 

I certainly know what impact I’d rather have. 

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Love me... love my dog....

This morning, when a reminder letter came in the post from the local vets, I realised that we have now had our little dog for a year.  It made me start thinking about all the positive differences this small, furry terrorist has made to our lives. 

Originally, I bought the dog for the kids.  I would never have bought one if I didn’t want one too, as I am the main carer for her.  But when I bought her for the kids, I had no idea how much of a positive impact she would have on all our lives.

And here they are.  The top eleven reasons why I love my dog:

1.  Every other weekend I’m on my own.  But with the dog in the house, it never feels empty. 

2.  I always know when the post arrives…  She runs to the door barking hysterically, and shreds it!  I shouldn’t laugh – but I can’t help myself!

3.  She is the world’s greatest football playing dog.  (Many a time I’ve had a child in tears, because she saves every goal they try to score!)  And it saves me having to join in!

4.  As a result of dog walking, I have made a number of fantastic friends and many acquaintances.  I love being able to chat to other dog walkers in the park, when the kids have gone to school.

5.  During the weekends when the kids are at their Dad’s, having the dog makes me get out of bed and out of the house, when I might otherwise waste the whole morning!

6.  She scares off the pigeons that have made themselves at home in our garden.  As I have a phobia of pigeons, I’m very happy about that!

7.  Instead of having to wake up two resistant kids in the morning, I just send the dog in.  She wakes them up in the most lovely way… jumping on top of them, kissing their ears and making them giggle.

8.  When the kids get bored they love playing with her.  It’s a very healthy alternative to PS3’s and other hideous computer games.

9.  The kids’ leftover food never goes to waste!!

10. When I’m really cross, grumpy and yelling at the kids, she looks like I’m telling her off too.  She creeps up to me, to try and make friends again.  It makes me feel so guilty that I have to stop!

11. And last, but by no means least, as the kids have learnt, there is always someone to blame for farting…!

Monday, 5 December 2011

The sexual lives of teenagers....

Since becoming single after a 20 year gap, I have been fascinated at the change in people’s attitudes towards sex. 

It seems that women (whether or not they choose behave this way), regard it as being perfectly acceptable to have casual sexual encounters.  Having sex is a ‘right’ and no longer something to be ‘frowned upon’.  In addition, I have been taken aback by people’s attitudes towards affairs.

When I was a child, the discovery that any of my parents’ friends had had affairs was a major social incident.  It rarely happened, but when it did, if the woman was the adulterous one, she could expect to be socially ostracised FOREVER….!  However, if a man was discovered to have had an affair, he was far less harshly treated. 

Nowadays, it seems that whilst some will still judge people harshly, many more take the attitude that an affair is the sign of a bad marriage, and the apportionment of blame has to be shared by both parties.

Bearing all this in mind, I have been fascinated to see what changes in attitude there have been amongst teenagers, and their parents. 

When I was a child, teenage pregnancies were rare and caused great shock.  I remember as a teenager discussing the subject with friends.  The hot topic was whether we would have the baby or not.  Amongst my friends, it was a moot point, because none of us were sexually active.  We are also the generation that was bombarded by the anti-AIDS campaign of the 80’s.  It had a major impact on us. 

So as a product of that generation, I find it equally fascinating and alarming to see the issues being faced by the friends of mine who have teenage daughters.  Over the last few months, I have found myself discussing ‘teenage issues’ with a number of them.  By chance, these friends all happen to have daughters varying in age from 13 to 17. 

From what they have said, promiscuity is at a level I find horrifying.  Underage girls are prescribed the pill without their parents’ consent, which may deal with the issue of pregnancy, but does not protect them from STDs.  And as teenage girls are not known for their reliability, they may not even be properly protected from that.

This freedom to take the pill also leaves boys without a sense of responsibility.  I believe that boys need to be more aware of the ramifications if their ‘girlfriend’, gets pregnant.  And the fact that they will have no control over whether she decides to proceed with the pregnancy. 

One friend’s daughter came home from school with a leaflet about sex and relationships.  It covered a variety of topics:  the importance of contraception; being ‘bullied’ into a sexual relationship; the ramifications of having compromising photos taken; and being pressurised into sex by your peer group.

But what I find so sadly missing in all of this, is the emotional element.  Sex as part of a loving, trusting relationship.  And if a girl has had sex with half a dozen boys by the time she’s 18, how will this affect her attitude towards relationships as she gets older?  Will she end up regretting it, or just continuing down the same path?

Is our society so broken down, that the idea of fidelity and lasting relationships is seen as archaic?  I really hope not. 

One mother discovered that her daughter had had several sexual partners, but couldn’t understand why her mother thought it was a big deal.  I admire her for her ability to stay calm, not scream the house down, accept that she is getting good grades at school, and that frankly, there is nothing she can do to stop her.

And so the other day, when a friend told me she is worrying herself over her daughter’s weight and her refusal to wear clothes that aren’t grungy, I had to smile to myself.  She’s the type of teenager that I was.  Rebellious, not wanting to do what her mother says, and frankly, just not that ‘into boys’. 

Whilst I have no doubt that my friend is driven round the bend by her daughter’s attitude, I can’t help thinking that she’s the luckiest mother of them all.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Just a quickie

And no… not what you’re thinking!  I mean that this is just going to be a very quick post today.

I have a child off sick.  And for a change, I believe he really is sick, owing to the fact that he has a temperature and won’t eat anything!  Very unusual.

Generally speaking, I confess I find it extremely irritating when the kids are off sick.  I can’t get lots of the things done that need doing and I’m house bound – owing to my very strict rule: If you’re sick, you stay in bed! It’s not a holiday!

But as it happens, the child who’s off sick, is the eldest, who recently went on his first ever trip abroad without either parent.  And for once, in the aftermath of missing him, I am secretly enjoying having him at home. 

Owing to his ill-health, he is not talking at quite his usual speed, and the signs of pre-pubescent behaviour (that’s back-chatting and general ‘arseyness’) have abated.  And being the age he is, I can have a decent conversation with him. 

I sat on the bed in my room next to him this morning, after I dropped his brother off at the school bus.  We watched the news and he asked a whole ton of interesting questions.  OK – he likes to start asking the question right at the moment that a key point in the story is being told by the newsreader…!  But, the mere fact he’s interested makes it OK for me.

And so I have this small moment in time with him.  A small moment to treasure.  No back chat, no fighting with the little one, no grumbling about homework.  I honestly believe that no high-octane adventures, outings or other excitement can compete with the happiness there is to be had in these private moments with your children, where you can just knock along together in peace.


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