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Am I The Only One Awake?

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Just back from holiday in Corfu – had a lovely peaceful time – and now back, this Monday morning, at work. Oh, the joy. Husband is away on a fishing trip ( he didn’t come to Corfu, which is probably why it was so peaceful) and I am sitting at my computer in a house full of gently snoring teenagers/young adults. Eldest daughter and her boyfriend are here for the duration while they look for jobs – really not easy at the moment – and eighteen-year-old is preparing to go to art college. By preparing, I mean, sleeping until about one, spending an hour putting on make up and glamorous clothing to accompany me to the Co-Op, and then getting back, exhausted, to start watching ‘America’s Top Model’ on Sky.

Meanwhile my life is trundling back onto its usual tracks. There’s nothing quite like a holiday, is there, for throwing you off course? I was relatively happy pre-holiday, in my usual groove, but then you have a week of utter bliss – sunbathing, reading masses of books, wandering about olive groves looking out for snakes, drinking cocktails and eating food cooked by other people. You rest, you drift, you flower in the sun. My old skin turned honey-coloured, my hair bleached and for once I could look in the mirror without flinching. I even did an hour’s yoga every day ( have discovered the ‘Yogalates’ DVD’s, which are brilliant, if presented by an Australian woman with a very odd intonation and a habit of saying, ‘Feel the peace and spirit of the universe’ which always makes me snort – with unfortunate consequences – while doing downward facing dog) which resulted in a small but satisfying amount of weight loss.

Now that’s all over. Life is back to normal, and boy, do I feel dissatisfied. It doesn’t help that I am behind in delivering first chapters of a new book, which is a mighty thing to hang over one, and work seems even more complicated than ever. I know I’ll get back into the groove soon, but am I alone in feeling, post-holiday, that my life isn’t exactly what I want? I know one should not grumble, but they do make you question the validity of sitting in front of a computer for ten hours every day, when the world is out there waiting to be explored, even by a fifty-something woman with a slightly bad back? I mean, how much longer have I got, and should I spend it like this?

But then I – and like most other women my age, I imagine – have still many financial responsibilities which make buggering off into the sunset well-nigh impossible. University for youngest, no doubt financial help for eldest, mortgage, tax bills ( oh lord, tax bills) and the what seems like daily incidence of leaking guttering/car needing servicing/vets bills for the myriad animals.

How simple life was, lying on a sun lounger by the swimming pool. Should I read my novel, or a guide book? Should I slide into the pool now, or later? Would I like some more freshly-squeezed orange juice, or a peach? I know it isn’t real life. But the trouble with golden holidays is that they make real life so grey by comparison. Next year, I think I’ll spend a week staring out of the window at the rain in Argyll. But then, how many years of having honey-coloured skin and hair the colour of wheat, do I have left? On that cheerful note, I leave you until I have pulled myself together and buckled down.


Written by motherofreinvention1

August 8, 2011 at 9:59 am

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A sandy poem to cheer us up

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A lovely fellow blogger send me this poem and I thought it might cheer us all up – is very wet and windy in the Highlands today, but only four days until I take off to Corfu with my two grown-up girls ( leaving husband behind – I do find that husbands can be a chore on holiday, much as I love him) Diana


I went down to the shouting sea,
Taking Christopher down with me,
For Nurse had given us sixpence each-
And down we went to the beach.

We had sand in the eyes and the ears and the nose,
And sand in the hair, and sand-between-the-toes.
Whenever a good nor’wester blows,
Christopher is certain of

The sea was galloping grey and white;
Christopher clutched his sixpence tight;
We clambered over the humping sand-
And Christopher held my hand.

We had sand in the eyes and the ears and the nose,
And sand in the hair, and sand-between-the-toes.
Whenever a good nor’wester blows,
Christopher is certain of

There was a roaring in the sky;
The sea-gulls cried as they blew by;
We tried to talk, but had to shout-
Nobody else was out.

When we got home, we had sand in the hair,
In the eyes and the ears and everywhere;
Whenever a good nor’wester blows,
Christopher is found with



Written by motherofreinvention1

July 20, 2011 at 7:44 am

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Now I am Fifty

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There used to be an A A Milne book, didn’t there, called ‘ Now We Are Young.’ Well, I am now writing one called, ‘Now We Are Old.’

Fifty. Whatever way you shimmy up to it – sideways, full frontal, cautious approach from the rear – it is bloomin’ old, isn’t it? When I was growing up fifty meant twinset and pearls, waist-high knickers and flat lace-up brogues. Dr Scholl shoes so comfy for your bunions, little tight curly purple perms and half-moon specs.

I am not that woman! And yet here I am, fifty. It beggars belief. I turned fifty and celebrated not with a bang, but a very small whimper. My elder sister came up to commiserate with me here in Scotland. But instead of sitting and knitting or planting begonias or watering our curly perms, instead we did something very non-fiftyish. I got the two of us old birds onto bikes and we cycled round the Isle of Mull.

I’ll tell you something for nothing – Mull is a big island. Cycling round it in a day was a plan bordering on insanity. It fact it was impossible. We wheeled our bikes off the Cal Mac ferry and looked at each other in a stupefied manner. Tobermory, it said, 21 miles. Tobermory was to be our first stop of the day, not our ultimate destination. ‘We may have bitten off more than we can chew,’ Kate ruminated. ‘You think?’ I replied.

Anyway, we gamely swung our wrinkly old legs over our trusty bikes and set off. It started to rain. Neither of us were looking at our sexy best in slightly skew-wiff bicycle helmets, rain glistening on our  furry upper lips and cycling shorts drooping in the rain. I am quite a regular cyclist which Kate is not, and I soon left her behind. Then I would wait, to see her come panting round the corner, bless, her kagoul flapping in the wind, rain-splashed specs glinting and helmet at a jaunty angle. ‘I’ll kill you for this,’ I could hear, wafting towards me on the wind.

We stopped for coffee in Salen, a very nice coffee shop and we had to have a bit of cake. Well, it was my birthday. Then we set off again. At least I did. I waited at the top of the hill – no Kate. ‘Bother,’ I said to myself, and turned back down the hill. There was a small crowd around her. She had turned turtle off the bike, and was lying in a small pool of rainwater and dust. She still had her cycle helmet on, though.

‘How did you fall off,’ I enquired, ‘you silly bint?’ She did laugh. ‘No idea,’ she said. I dusted her off, shoo-ed away the concerned crowd and placed her back on her bike. Already, we had reverted to the age of ten and eight, in which I placed her in mortal danger with my harebrained schemes, and she was too good-natured to object. Then she’d hurt herself and I’d get cross. Now we were 50 and 52, and still at it.

Three hours later, we arrived in Tobermory. ‘We did it!’ We yelled as we free-wheeled down the hill. A long and delicious restorative lunch followed. We then wanted to cycle on to Calgary Bay but blimey, it was quite hilly. ‘Sod that for a game of soldiers,’ I said. We hired a minibus. It was expensive, but very comfortable and most important of all, required no pedalling.

Then the sun came out. We stripped off under towels, put on swimming costumes, and plunged into the sea. It was freezing, but fabulous and invigorating. The sun shone on the sandy beach, we laughed a lot and jumped up and down in the turquoise water. Then we dried off, tried to get the residual sand out of our knickers and walked up from the beach to another cafe to eat more cake. We were very happy.

We got home late and had a takeaway and some alcohol. Fifty, eh? It’s not so bad. Not if you can cycle 21 miles and eat cake and get sand in your knickers.

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July 18, 2011 at 3:20 pm

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Life’s a beach ….

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Summer clothes shopping with my two daughters. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? I am picturing drifting around shops, gently stroking beautiful chiffon maxi dresses, trying on jewelled flip flops and bikinis and dreaming of the sunlit days ahead.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Instead, after an hour of absolute hell, I insist that we separate and they allow me to stump around the shops on my own. It is simply too depressing to watch them slide into slinky little tops from Urban Outfitters and silk mini dresses and emerge looking like supermodels. After an hour of this torture it finally dawns on me that I am no longer looking for clothes which show off my figure. I am looking for clothes which will cover it up.

‘What about this?’ I say, holding up a long stripy sleeveless maxi dress in Whistles. ‘Remember arms, mother,’ my eighteen year old says. Another woman of about my vintage flashes me a sympathetic look. Beaten, I put it back on the rail. I have this idea in my head of what clothes will look like on me, which is utterly defeated by the reality. I mean, the dress may be fabulous, but it’s the bits of me hanging out the sides which seem to spoil everything.

Take the ruffled beige silk dress which should have looked fabulous. Even the girls nodded when I lifted it off the rail. £249, so not cheap, but the kind of dress I could wear not only in the evening on holiday but to weddings etc. It ticked many boxes. On the knee, so no flashing of above-knee dimpling. Sleeveless, but I could wear a little shrug to prevent Big Daddy arm revelations.

I shimmied into it – I have perfected the art of the changing room shimmy, which means woolly jumper leaves my body to be replaced by new garment in one seamless movement to prevent startling sight of neon-lit vision of me in bra and pants. I flick back my hair, put my new wedge shoes on to give me height and length, and confidently look into the mirror. Argh! That wasn’t skin, surely? I look like a blancmange in a dress.

‘Let us see,’ the girls say. I can feel beads of sweat popping out on my upper lip. ‘It doesn’t suit me,’ I say hastily, unzipping the side zip and starting the hopefully quick slide of offending garment over my head. Only, for some bizarre reason, it won’t come off. It came on, so it should, by rights, come off. But it doesn’t. I tug and there is a small but ominous ripping sound. I pause, panting. I am stuck. The only way out of this is to expand my rib cage and obliterate the dress, like the Incredible Hulk. Only it costs £249, I whimper to myself. Not only am I trapped in a silken headlock, I am also naked save for an embarassingly small pair of pants and a grubby white M & S bra. Calling the fire brigade is not an option.

My elder daughter taps again. ‘Are you sure you’re OK?’ I realize I have to admit defeat. The only people I will ever allow to see me in this state of undress are my unshockable family. ‘I can’t get it off,’ I say in a muffled voice. There is a snort from the other side of the door. ‘Let me in,’ she says. I open the door a fraction, and she slides in. ‘I’m so glad I haven’t eaten,’ she says. ‘Just help me out!’ I squeak. Gently, she gets hold of the top of the dress, I brace myself against the back wall and she begins to tug. I am suddenly reminded of Winnie the Pooh with the pot of honey stuck on his head. After a few minutes of undignified heaving, dress and I abruptly part company, forever. Beth looks at the label. ‘It’s a size 12, too,’ she says. ‘Please leave,’ I say, with what little dignity I can muster. ‘It must be a very small size 12.’

After this, I send the girls, still sniggering, off on their own to inflict untold damage on my credit card. This may be a dangerous thing, but I can take no more of this torture. I confine myself to shoe and bag shopping on the basis that you don’t have to take anything off.

On this beach this summer, if you happen to be in Corfu in early August, you may catch sight of me. I shall be modelling a little lightweight tarpaulin in the fashionable colour-block shades of purple and orange.

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July 4, 2011 at 12:13 pm

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The Mother of All Reinventions …

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What do you do when your twenty-three-year-old daughter turns to you and says, ‘Stop trying to be such a mother!’ Erm – sorry? But that’s what it says on the tin, last time I looked. It says, ‘Diana Appleyard, mother to a 23-year-old and an 18-year-old.’ A mother is what I have been for the past twenty-three years, twenty-four, if you count gestation. It’s rather hard to stop behaving like a mother. You know – the sort of person who begins every sentence with, ‘Have you got?’ or ‘Why haven’t you?’ I’m sorry, but nagging is my default setting. Actually, I don’t call it nagging. I call it organising the smooth running of their lives and preventing imminent disaster.

But my two daughters now want to lead independent lives. They don’t want someone running after them saying, ‘Have you got your mobile phone? Is it charged? Have you got a coat?’ (Why do young people regard warm clothing as apparel of the devil?) They don’t want a mother who complains bitterly that every single towel in the house is currently lying on their bedroom floors, soaking wet. They don’t want a mother who complains that the tumble drier is clogged up with a hundred black and tan nylon tights, wound inextricably into a tight ball and emitting small electric shocks. It’s the end of the season, and I have been relegated. Relegated to being a bit player in their lives, a backroom, shadowy and preferably silent figure whose sole function should be the nameless handing over of cash.

Only I am not allowed to say that I still support them financially – they both have part-time jobs and this – allegedly – funds the festival-going and trips up and down the country and abroad which are planned for this summer. My credit card is currently lying in a corner sobbing, having paid various online train fares to keep them trundling around Britain and abroad in their ever-moving pack of colourful friends, trailing linen scarves and Absolut Vodka bottles. Honestly, I will need an operational room full of stern-faced men with long sticks, flags and a big map to keep track of both of them this summer. My eldest daughter is coming home soon from university and is looking for a proper job. She won’t stay long, she says, because this isn’t her home anymore. Ouch.

Mostly, they say I must stop telling them how to live their lives because they are GROWN UP. Only you know what – they aren’t really grown up. They aren’t nearly there yet, and I know, in my heart, that if only they listened to my advice they would not make mistakes or wrong decisions. It’s also extremely hard to stop the lifelong habit of interfering. I hear them on the phone, talking to their friends, making plans. ‘Oh no,’I say, forgetting the golden rule of non-mothering. ‘You shouldn’t do that, that’s asking for trouble. And when will you be back?’ Cue glare and muttering, as they abruptly leave the room, their phone clamped to their ear, leaving a swirl of indignant outrage suspended like dust in the air.

I totally understand the mothers who have taken up Facebook stalking their older children. For a start, their lives are so darn interesting compared to ours. All their friends, so beautiful, smooth and young, their lives one long photo opportunity. Every moment of their life is caught on camera. My life is one long ‘get up, have coffee, switch on computer, walk dog, sit in front of computer, go to gym, eat dinner, be in bed by ten.’ Perhaps I am – as charged – attempting to live my life vicariously through theirs, because their lives are much prettier than mine.  They have all the possibilities of life. I have all the dull certainties.

So this summer, deep breath, I have to perfect the art of non-parenting parenting. I know they still need me and will ring me in a crisis – I am like an ever-expanding human safety net but must on all accounts be seen but not heard. I have to remember not to plead with them to come home because it is much more fun in our house when they are home. They bring colour, noise and energy. Everything perks up when they breeze in the door, trailing black binbags of grubby and ripped clothing, even the tortoise. I am learning that the arts of non-parenting are very subtle. You have to be cool. You have to appear not to be bothered, or fazed by any plan, however ill-judged or frankly impossible. ‘Oh mum! You’re such a fun sponge!’ You have to resist the urge to burrow into their rooms and give them a good tidy out – ‘so that’s where my navy cashmere sweater went! And why does it have holes in the cuff where they stuck their thumb through it? Why do they do that?’

I tell myself that the next phase of MY independent life is ahead. I am fifty next month. Bloody hell. Fifty – that’s like tweed skirts and tight curly perm old. If the girls are flying the nest then my husband and I need to start feathering a new one. But – I liked being a mum. You know when someone in the street shouts, ‘Mum!’ You automatically turn round and say, ‘Yes, darling?’ I haven’t been a particularly brilliant mum, I don’t think, but I never actually lost a child. These past twenty-three years have genuinely been the happiest time of my life. I know I need to open the window and let them fly, but I can’t bear the thought of cutting that invisible thread that makes me who I am. Without them, I am a colourless amoeba, and it’s going to take me a lot of time to re-form.

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June 26, 2011 at 9:36 am

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