Playing out.

Today was a momentous day. When I tell you why it was momentous, you will probably laugh, and switch to a much more interesting webpage.Rachel played out on the street with the other children today. Like a proper little girl. Not a baby-a proper little girl, with proper little friends, regularly running to me, panting with anticipation, as she asked if it was ok for Maisie and Finn to go up to her bedroom, or could they have an ice lolly, or could they have some er..scissors..(yes my darling of course you can have some scissors..you want to cut up your dress..of course..NOT).I am not complaining, but today was one of the days, where I realised i am a proper bonafide grown up. And my tiny baby, is no longer a baby.As Rachel was eating her breakfast, I sat on the step, as I am prone to do- drinking my first(or seventeenth) cup of tea. Since 6.15am, I had been convinced she was ill- her forehead was hot, I had resorted to calpufren, and kissed goodbye to a weekend.By the time she was consuming her third bowl of shreddies(seriously- that cant be good for you can it- this is in addition to an apple, and a pile of strawberries?), she had spotted the little boy from across the road playing with his scooter. At which point she abandoned the table(where the half eaten bowl of shreddies still sits) and ran out of the door. She walked up to the very confused looking boy, told him he was her friend now, and they started to play scooters, illness forgotten.Along came Maisie, from the top of the street, and out came Lola, from the house next door but one. All children I have seen playing outside-but who it never occurred to me, would be playmates for Rachel. Usually, I would have Rachel demanding I help with this, or do that, or watch this- but today- she just played, entirely absorbed with these other children. Only coming back to say that Lola thought a picnic would be nice, and could she, could she, could she please have a picnic. Maisie had a horsey that neighed, and could she please please please borrow it, Maisies mummy said it was ok, and was it ok for Finn and Maisie to come round and play sometimes, please please, please..I felt almost superflous- my role as involved mother/playmate/redcoat central to every aspect of Rachels life, redundant, replaced with a satelite role of supervisor, and approval authority. By the time they had been playing for 2 and a half hours(seriously 2 and a half hours!!!), they had organised between themselves that we would be having a picnic on the street, but Finn wasnt allowed meat, so his mummy would make his sandwich…and could they please please please borrow a blanket.  Finn, Maisie, and Lola are all pre-school, or reception age- so at least a year older than Rachel, and I had just assumed that they were ‘big kids’- but here she was, holding her own- and making dinner plans no less!Maisie, Lola, and Finns mums, who I have never said more than two words to, all dutifully provided their contributions to this picnic- and we all sat bemused, as our children sat in the middle of the street, with a blanket down, managing their own picnic, and looking disdainfully at us, if we dared to encroach on their little party. This gave us the opportunity to talk, and I found that Maisies mum and her girlfriend were going to the same festival I am going to(hopefully!) next weekend, and Finns mum had a shared addiction to second hand clothes, and designer items.With our children occupying each other- we found it was quite nice to have someone with kids the same age, in such close proximity.I recall situations like this, but my recollection is from the perspective of the little girl, asking her foster carer for approval for plans, excitedly made with whatever friend I was playing with. My place is now that of the person saying ‘yay or nay’ to excited requests, some reasonable, some absolutely bizarre(can we have my blankets so we can make a ‘tend beach, and we need a starfish mummy, can you buy one?). This generational shift was a pleasant surprise.When lunch was over, and the sun had become a bit too hot,  overtiredness returned my baby to me, at least temporarily, as she snuggled up for a story and some milk. But when her dad unexpectedly arrived to take her to see his friend, she was not full of stories about what she had done with mummy, but plans she had made with Lola, Maisie, and Finn- and excited presentation of the neighing horsey she had borrowed from Maisie.(Maisie is nearly 4, and will be at big school in September, so is the height of sophistication!).

Icon status?

In the inevitable conversations about the death of Micheal Jackson, a friend of mine said ‘He was the last superstar, with proper fans and proper idol status’. While I am sure that this statement will be repeated ad infinitum in the media storm which will form our news for the next few days, I wonder whether this ‘icon’ status is something to be revered?As far as I can see, elevating any single human being, to the point where they could amass a personal fortune equivalent to the gross national product of a small country, and where they have a perceived right, by virtue of their money and fame, to live in any way they choose, away from basic notions of  right and wrong and the rule of law, on the basis of a knack for entertaining, is a pretty dangerous thing to do.Dont get me wrong, music and entertainment can be great things. I nearly missed my own wedding to go see the Chilli Peppers(whom I have since renamed the luke warm chilli peppers…).I would chop off my own arm to see The Stone Roses reform.But when this iconic status allows people like Micheal Jackson, Madonna, Brangelina et al to bypass the rules which shape the rest of society, to harm themselves and others in the process- then surely the time has come to question how and why, we elevate people to the level of being untouchable?I dont know whether Micheal Jackson was a paedophile- the scale of his celebrity meant that there was no way any court could ever try him fairly, and his sheer wealth and power ensured that hefty payments were made to more than one child, to prevent courts from attempting it. I know that even after having to pay off two children, and while awaiting trial for sexual molestation of a third, he was still saying openly that it was acceptable for him to sleep with other peoples children, in a locked room. There were still queues of families waiting to allow him access to their own children, and thousands of people arguing that his distorted upbringing in a media glare, meant that we should be understanding of this belief.From a social work perspective, the idea that someone who had had several allegations of sexual abuse, should have no understanding of why this was unnacceptable, is incomprehensible.What effect does living in a bubble filled with sychophants, and people interested in perpetuating this money making machine have on a human being? How do we hold someone who has existed exclusively outside society, accountable to societies rules?When we talk about these icons- Britney, Madonna, Micheal Jackson- we seem to believe that pecadillos like the desire to sleep with children, the collection of babies from the developing world, public mental breakdowns- are merely eccentricities  stemming from their genius for entertainment.We hold this idea of unimaginable wealth and fame, as something to aspire to- even though we are faced daily with the effect it has, on both the ‘icons’ themselves, and on the world around them.  We consistently ignore the question of why the ability to sing a song, perform in a movie, put on a show- should inevitably result in the complete removal of a person from the society in which they live.We remove humanity from these people, we remove them from humanity. We give them a voice, reassure them that their voice surely has more value, than the voices of those who pay for their lives. They live simultaneously in fear of the adoration, that marketing of their talents has caused, and desperate for it, believing it to be real and justified.It seems to me, that these things are not by-products of creative ability. THey are by-products of living a life almost exclusively removed from the society in which they live, in a fishbowl with that society eagerly handing over cash, to devour every detail of that distorted fantasy life as the entertainment du jour.What it says about our society scares me. I wont be mourning Micheal Jackson. I didnt know him. I heard his records. But the phenomena of this ‘icon’ affects me. The fact that I live in a society, where a single human beingwith a talent for singing songs, is deified to the point where they are personally destroyed, and their human fallibity is overlooked, because of the ‘contribution’ they make to entertainment, scares me.

Child free…is this what life was like?

Today I declared June 25th a ‘gimme day’.  So far today, I have rolled about in my pyjamas. (Actually, I say pyjamas, I actually mean an old t-shirt, with some suspect stains, and a pair of socks). I have watched two movies, and gone back to bed for a catchup-sleep.These days are infrequent. A combination of Rachel, work, and various other committments, and a very grown up belief that doing ‘nothing’ is a fairly decadent, indecent sort of way to spend your time, mean that this is a rare occurence.As it is a rare occurence, I am unsure whether writing about it in this blog is wise- what if I was to give the general impression, that I was the kind of louche individual, who can while away hours in a state of slobby dress- doing absolutely nothing? Oh wait- I am, or would be precisely that sort of individual, if I could get away with it… I did throughout my late teens and early twenties.Until I was 24, I would discuss weeekends in the following terms- saturday daytime would be spent trying to get out of bed. With me eventually rising, to give me enough time to get ready for whatever civilised social engagement(usually the kind of civilised engagement (which meant a packed room of 2-500 individuals, moving rythmically, to repetitive beats, with conversations in corners fuelled by endless cigarettes, consisting of utter bollocks between strangers), followed by a return home at dawn, or soon after. With Sundays being entirely spent, in bed, dozing, and eating junk food with the people I had been out with the night before.I was vaguely aware that sundays for others, were spent doing more ‘meaningful’ things- DIY, shopping, watching the Eastenders omnibus over a roast dinner, playing sports, or spending time with/avoiding close family. This awareness was combined with a sense that whilst that all seemed very admirable, I wasnt quite sure how these people lived a life where it was possible to be awake during a Sunday daytime. Although I completely knew how people got themselves to a bar for a sunday evening round up.Throughout my twenties, as my career developed, I gained new responsibilities- these sundays became more and more infrequent. And this week, I spotted the opportunity to have one- even though it is actually Thursday. So here I am, in my pyjamas, eating Haribo sweets, with a beautiful boy making me cups of tea, between naps, and episodes of the Daily Show on download.  I can hear people outside occasionally, going about their meaningful existence- and again, while I understand it, I cant for the life of me understand why anyone would not want to be dossing around in their pyjamas, drinking tea, and watching movies- with the curtains tightly shut, and that world on the other side.

Child free day.

On the forms I fill in, I tick the box for single parent. But thats misleading. I am not, and have never been a single parent. Rachel has two parents, both deeply flawed, both trying hard, both different, but both essential to her. We just live in seperate houses.Her father and I seperated for every cliche in the book, go to the forums of any parenting website, and see the discussions about how children have affected a relationship. Women who were raised to believe that their roles had changed, all of a sudden finding they were struggling with the same things their mothers had struggled with. Finding themselves doing it all, rather than having it all, balancing work, house, motherhood, with husbands whose roles havent changed at all. Me working a full time job in part time hours, and him trying desperately to get his employers to bend to allow him to take the role he wished to, in his daughters life, and feeling increasingly excluded by the bond that can only develop when you are the parent who is there all the time.In the months after my daughter was born, the fact that I was at home, and breastfeeding, meant that responsibility for the domestic fell to me. And when I went back to work, responsibility stayed with me. The fact that I had developed routines for Rachel, and been sucked into the idea that I was the only person who could do what she needed, meant that I simultaneously complained that I was exhausted and overwhelmed by it all- while failing to realise the reason I had the skills and knowledge about what Rachel needed, was that he had never had the opportunity to learn those skills. (Seriously- did you know that babies dont come with a manual- you really have to figure it all out on your own. They do publish baby books, but babies dont read them).All this, while every pre-existing crack from our pre-child relationship, was brought into sharp relief, by the sleep deprivation and exhaustion of a new baby coming to our home, and the two young adults in the house moving towards independance.We seperated a year ago today, and I expected that seperation to have a negative effect. The myriad of headlines blaming the breakdown of family on every social ill, are as ingrained on my psyche as anyone elses.What I actually found was the man who I could no longer live with, when left to his own devices, was as vital to her care, as I was. That he was as capable, and as important, as I was. I found there were many things he did, which I didnt like-(there is a much higher consumption of fish fingers, instant noodles, and crisps in his house. There is a much higher likelihood of her going to nursery dressed as a lady bug, with doc marten boots in his care, and he has never figured out how to fix a hair clip in place). He cares less about the keeping a clean house, or a bedtime routine- than I do. He is much more willing to allow Rachel to explore her infinitely fearless side, and doesnt wince when she flings herself off things with the gusto of Evil Kineval. He is infinitely more patient with the endless toddler tantrums. These things are as necessary to her care, as my rigid adherence to 7 o clock bathtime, and an insistence on no more than two hours tv a day.After the first months, of forcing ourselves to bite our lips when discussing the practicalities of the split- forcing each other to retain daily contact, to discuss her day. Ensuring that we ate together at least once a week- and only discussing contentious issues when she was in bed-we both realised we still had a relationship. Not a romantic one- but certainly a relationship as two parents. And over the months that followed- a friendship.This friendship contains all the best aspects of our relationship as husband and wife, without any of the minor irritations of having to live with another adult, who is different, and without the day to day mundane tasks, taking over. We have something with each other that no one else can offer- when Rachel does one of those very endearing things, which would result in a glazed over ‘she is talking about her child again’ from my friends, I can ring her dad, and know that he will be as proud as I am. When I am at the end of my tether, after a twenty minute tantrum resulting from a change in breakfast cereal- I know that he will empathise. And when I am worried about any aspect of her life, I know that he will be as worried as I am.He despairs in the way that I used to, over mounds of washing that are never ending, or the fact that she is refusing to brush her teeth. But the fact that he is on his own with her, means that he also gets the benefits of a child, which cannot be gained on a weekend visit. The joy of children is not in the trips to the zoo, or McDonalds- its the moments after you have been pushed to your limits, and a second later its forgotten because she does something funny. These are not the moments that define motherhood- these are also the moments that define fatherhood- if they are allowed.So I sit here this morning, exactly a year from our seperation- considering selling my wedding dress on ebay- reassured that regardless of what happens Rachel has two parents who love her, and that even if I falter- her father is there to make sure that she is ok, and vice versa.I know that my experience is not necessarily shared. It isnt even shared in the lives of the single parents I know. Single parent households are overwhelmingly headed by women, and those households have a substantially higher chance of almost every negative outcome that you can think of, and there is no arguing that  we live in a society where fatherhood is devalued, both by feckless ‘men’ who wont take responsibility for children, and a family court system that forces men to fight to be allowed to.But a romantic relationship is a fragile thing- that kind of love can be fleeting. The bond between parent and child is not. Choosing to have a child can be an expression of committment between a couple, but the committment is ultimately to the child- and the end of that romantic relationship has not, in this house, compromised any of the committment felt by James and I, to our beautiful daughter.

And today..

Its difficult to know what to write in a blog. Today is a day, where even though I have been active since 6 am, I am finishing the day exactly where I started. But with superglue on my teeth.I have the luxury usually, of a couple of child free days a week, where Rachel goes to her dad, and I am spared identifying with sisyphus, trying to get the most mundane tasks done with a two year old in tow.  My dire financial situation means that this week, this isnt the case. We started with sorting stuff out for the ebay sale, which is hopefully going to prevent me starving to death next week.  By the time Rachel was wearing my wedding dress, a pair of stilettos, several necklaces, and proudly declaring she was a queen, common sense informed me that this was a task best left till those precious hours after bedtime.The realisation that the house I never stop tidying, was possibly in the kind of state that would warrant my old colleagues paying me a visit with serious public health concerns, and concerns about Rachels welfare, led me to the very unwise decision that I could clean it today.Cue a discussion with a two year old stating that she was the best person to tidy her own bedroom, and teh threats of temper eruptions, which make Naomi Campbell look zen, resulting in(as battles of wills with toddlers often do)  my defeat, and Rachel going off to tidy said room.  The ominous silence that fell over the house, while she undertook this task, was used gratefully by me, to transform my disgusting kitchen into something that one would not be afraid to cook in. THe excited squeals of ‘mummy I finished’, accompanied by a sinking stomach, and the realisation that all Rachels clothes(clean and dirty) were in her tent, all her dolls house furniture was now in the bath, her books were helpfully spread over the top floor of the house(you will be able to see which one you want to read for stories mummy…), and a dubious wet patch, was noted, with the explanation that the baby doll had weed on the floor, and she couldnt have possibly done it, because she is a big girl who uses the toilet now.  The question of why there was shredded toilet paper all over the bedroom floor, was met with incredulous looks, as she explained patiently that it had been snowing.Happy that despite two hours of activity, the house was in exactly the same state as it had been when I started, I felt that a trip out was necessary. As my financial resources are..ahem limited, a trip to the housing benefit counter(conveniently placed in the library, next to the kids section) and a trip to the post office beckoned.  RAchel clearly felt that the dusty old post office was not a place for children, and every time we neared the front of the queue, she legged it, in the style of Roadrunner- meaning said place in queue was lost, until this process had been repeated 3 times, and a woman sensed my impending nervous breakdown, and kindly let us in front of her.Trip to housing benefit office(helpfully contained in the library) was much better- Rachel was very patient, and explained to the tired overworked looking woman behind the counter that she should ‘smile and be kind’, and that ‘the book corner was much better than this bit of the library’. I am not entirely sure that this, while amusing me greatly, didnt lead to said woman, refusing to take my payslips, as there was nothing on them which showed that they were anything more than printouts from home..A 40 minute walk home(5-10 minutes max-without child), had to include a visit to the baby ducks(which have now grown into adult ducks- a fact which led to a distraught little girl complaining that we have LOST the baby ducks, and that I should get them back), a reassurance that we were in fact walking the right way, and it would not be more fun to walk backwards. A short shoulder ride(no mean feat in 3.5inch wedges! I can tell you!), and a squiggly wiggly snake purchased from the ice cream van, in a vain attempt at bribery.Which led us to the dolls house. With Rachel showing me that she had a coat hook that had fallen down, and a request that I fix it.  Go get superglue- try to unblock nozzle with my teeth- end up with mouth full of superglue. Actually, thats a lie. Just the front two teeth, and the tip of my tongue. Someone on Twitter informed me that superglue had been developed to close wounds in the Vietnam war, and I have a feeling, I will have something that feels like a plastic crust on my teeth, and tongue for a good few days yet…The two hours of overtiredness, which followed that, I have blocked out, in a vain attempt to prevent post traumatic stress disorder. And here we are, chilled out, in front of Dora the Explorer(who shouts A LOT), in a semi tidy house, a library book defaced with a picture of me, that I think has more merit than Tracy Emins recent offerings.  THe tasks to be completed today, still await, and I would quite like to eat chocolate and drink tea.On the upside, I learned today that  queens ‘do jumping and eat sweeties’, that greenbeans are in fact dolls bogeys, that I look like one of the monsters from ‘Where the Wild Things Are'(the third jumping monster on the left from the second page, after the wild rumpus starts..), and that the invisible crocodiles that live outside our house, are in fact very nice. She has eaten 3 meals which were in some way healthyish, and I have managed to convince her to brush her teeth at least once..  I now get the pleasure of reading the three stories I intend to read, and the two or three that she manages to wangle out of me.To those of you who think this sounds like a dull, arduous day- I have to say, that this is my favourite kind of day. Nothing much happening, nothing much doing, and just chilling out with a short girl with blonde curls, brown eyes, and a fiercely unpredictable temper. (Who is at this moment licking my shoulder and laughing).

What I learned today.

What I learned today, is that a pair of shoes, is just a pair of shoes. And while I contemplated an ebay auction of my dignity, to cover shortfall between final salary, lenght of time to process a housing benefit claim and my iminently due rent- I learned that a pretty pair of vertiginous fendi heels, and a hand made ocean blue silk and twill corset, and Diane Von Furstenburg black woolen dress- have a resale value.I also learned that only my love of very expensive, but infrequently bought clothes, is the cushion between me, some piss poor financial planning, and being up shit creek. I am fairly sure that I have distorted the true lesson of this situation, so that I can feel no guilt, when financial situation improves, and I am tempted to spend large amounts of money, on beautifully made, but desperately overpriced items. The human psyche is a very strange thing.I am slightly concerned that I will find myself in a pink kappa tracksuit, with gold hoops, and have to rename my daughter ‘Demi-Leigh’- although I think if I can get work in next few weeks, that is highly unlikely. I could ring Jeremy Kyle, and book my place on his televisual ampitheatre of human ‘bear baiting’- but still reserve his place, with his back against the wall, when the revolution comes.One of the benefits of finding yourself skint, is that you rediscover the art of cooking, and the art of buying food. Instead of me, and the short one, having whatever titbits we fancy, I have morphed into someones grandmother(I must specify, not my grandmother- unless I discover a hankering for strongbow cider, and petty fraud). Meal planning, and considering cheap cuts of meat. Realised I havent eaten my favourite meals, since last time I was this skint. Corned beef hash, with two poached eggs on top, and a big blob of ketcup for dinner. Favourite meal for less than a quid a head.What I also learned today, is that any given ‘festival’ in the town where I live, will be populated by falafel stands, the same hippies, in variations of similar costume, and lots of fair trade signs. I learned that despite my best efforts, my daughter states she is a ‘princess butterfly’ and not a feminist. And I learned that despite the predictability of it all, I quite like being in a field full of people whose conviction and committment to their community, mean that there are many many more ‘festivals’  like it, to occupy me and my daughter for free, for the rest of the summer.  She had her face painted like a butterfly, and is exhausted with a full belly of nearly inedible organic falafels and crepes!So thats the lessons I learned today.PS I also learned that my ISP technical department are a pain in the arse, and do not want me to have a fully working, stable, internet connection.

So this is blogging?

I am a deeply flawed human being, with a deeply embedded bad streak, only credit reference agencies have the true measure of me, and they know I am not to be trusted. I try really hard though.This blog is my inane ramblings, and really, is a symbol of the vanity that the digital revolution has given us all.I am not a writer- yet here I am, hoping that someone will find the musings on my deeply shallow, but deeply enjoyable existence-in the slightest bit interesting.I have a beautiful, crazy, intelligent, 2 year old. A manky cat. I live in a town of organochavs, feminists, lesbians, and social workers- and have a sneaking suspicion that I am entirely qualified to live there.I paint badly. I blog. I have an opinion on everything.Oh, and I overuse commas.