Monday, 5 January 2015

Twelve days of Christmas

So it’s arrived again, the time when the decorations come down, the kids go back to school and life goes back to what resembles normality in this house.  And I can’t help but feel a little sad. The anticlimax has hit.  2015 looms full of opportunity, but full of the same old same old… There are going to be lots of challenges that will need to be overcome, and I will face them with both excitement and trepidation. 

How to combat a certain element of the fear of failure is a challenge that I will have to learn, and to teach my boys.  How to look at a grey sky and see a blue one will at times be a challenge.  How to find that last ounce of strength to help a child with his homework when I am tired, or overworked or over wrought will be a challenge.

But it will happen.  And it will be my little family that will spur me on in any dark days that I have. The little pleading eyes that say Please can we use the last Egg to make some Cupcakes? And the smell of baking will ease anything!  Or the little shoulders that shrug when presenting me with the requirements for a fancy dress costume due in school the next day – with total trust that I can do it.  And I do.  Or the fiercely wagging tail of the dog which indicates that Yes, he knows it is raining, but still, it would be fun to go and splash in puddles and get all muddy.  And it is.

And so it’s not really so bad, the last few days of Christmas.  It signifies that we have survived another festive period, this year mercifully without any mishaps. It gives me time to look again through the cards, reading those little scribbles that tell you what others lives have been like, looking at the enclosed photos of their growing kids or aging parents. It gives me a chance to carefully wrap up all the dough decorations and baubles that the kids made in nursery, preserving them for another year.  And it is a time for reflection.

And if anyone needs  anything to look forward to - it will be less than 350 days before they all go up again!  

Friday, 2 January 2015

Back to the Future as 2015 finally arrives

On the second day of 2015, or the Future (as featured in the 1989 film Back to the Future II) most of us are sitting a little dazed as the mayhem of the festive period in 2014 fizzes out on the horizon in a last pop of a Prosecco bubble. The tree sits wilting in bedraggled tinsel and the outside lights that looked so magnificent at Christmas flicker disconsolately. The cards gather glittery dust on the window sills and half opened boxes of chocolate glisten unappealingly on the table. If we saw Marty, Doc and Jennifer screech into our lives, big hair, smiles and shoulder pads looming, we would assume wearily that we were hallucinating, and that the dodgy eighties tribute band from down the local pub had got lost again…


Let’s face it, what does a film made in 1989 about our year to date really know? 1984, in which George Orwell famously described a world in which we were controlled by a Big Brother state in which there was an Inner Party that controlled the 85% of us Proles, despite a lot of accurate insights into the working of modern governments and industries, came and went.  We refused to die in May 2000, or December 2012 – both of which were ancient predictions for the end of the world.   So what is it about 2015 that will make it stand out as the Future?  What is it that will make us think, at the end of the year, that it was worth waiting for?

Back to the Future II starts off in 1985 where the original film ended, with Marty and Jennifer getting married.  But Marty and Doc have to travel forward in time to 2015 to rescue his future son from being jailed. And then all the complications arise.  So in effect, they arrive where us 80s kids are today. Yes we are older, fatter, have kids, family, mortgage and responsibilities.  We get more tired nowadays, and a hangover lasts a few days rather than a few hours. And now its me cooking the Christmas dinner instead of my mum, and I don't do a bad job of it either. 

But our true friends are still with us, and we laugh at the same stupid things, dance much to the embarrassment of our teenagers to the 'new music' before a couple of glasses of wine necessitates slamming on the Greatest Hits of the Eighties. And we would fight tooth and nail for our kids, rather like Marty.  

Perhaps we can’t stand around waiting for the hover boards and flying cars to appear.  Perhaps what we have to do is make just one prediction – that this year, the year of the Future, we will do something worthwhile to us and to us alone.  It may be dropping that dress size, it may be getting that job, it may be leaving that job, it may be learning to be patient with your aging parents, or curbing your frustration with your difficult teenage child, or learning a new skill, dumping a toxic friend, hitting the gym, or resolving to make some ‘me’ time every day.

Whatever it is, this year make it worth it. The Future is here, and it’s yours for the taking.

And if you smell burning rubber and hear screeching tyres up above your heads, duck as fast as you can, ‘cos Marty and co have arrived…

Happy New Year! 

Friday, 7 November 2014

7 Sundays to Christmas

7 Sundays to Christmas  (a mummy's ditty)

7 Sundays to Christmas
And everyone’s a-flutter
7 Sundays to Christmas
Husband begins to mutter.

Bags of shopping hiding
In places I forget
Present ideas sliding
As we view the internet.

The setting in of panic
As red sold out signs appear
The typing getting manic
It happens every year.

Lists changing daily
No constants since the dog
The anxiety of failing
Upturned faces agog...

Deep breaths and decision
Belt tightening with a flair
Hard thinking with precision
No plucking out of air.

School plays and school days
Excitement builds so high
‘7 Sundays to Christmas!’
All the mummies cry.

Concerts and festive fayres
Cash flying out the door
Teachers gifts- those who care
Calendar fills up more...

‘Must catch up for a drink
Before Christmas if you please’;
What madness makes us all think
Of decorating trees?

Street lighting in November
Cards building up in piles
Ready for December
The month of stress and smiles.

Fowl ordered with the goose fat
That is never used all year
Puddings, games and moose hat
For the season of good cheer.

Bottles clink in boxes
Grand opening day awaits
We’ve got our Christmas sockses
The CD of yuletide greats.

7 Sundays to Christmas
Brain starts to creak and grate
But look on to the bright side...
It’ll all be gone in 8! 

©Ruth Morrison 2014

Friday, 31 October 2014

Friends: The Witches, the Bitches and the Climb out of Ditches

The older I get, the fussier I am about making friends.  This is not because I am unsociable, far from it.  I absolutely love making new acquaintances.  I love the feeling of meeting someone new -and if they interest me- finding out about their lives, what makes them tick, what qualities attract me.  Occasionally they become a friend.  And there is no tried and tested formula.  You do get natural wastage. Friends who were once mainstays in my life no longer feature.  Through no fault of their own, or mine, just through circumstances or fate or environmental factors they have dropped off the radar, relegated to acquaintances. #WOTW Word of the week is Friends.

And in the spirit of Halloween I have categorized them in three groups: The ‘Witches’, the ‘Bitches’, and the ‘Climb out of Ditches’.


There’s something spookily fascinating about the Witch friend.  Mainly found in youthful circles, you can also find them in the MaFia groups on which I have written before. She beguiles you from the start, she could be very attractive both in looks and personality.  There is nothing that she wouldn’t do for you, initially. She is very persuasive, and you find yourself arguing on her behalf, without question.  She invites you to everything, you become part of her coven.  You plot and plan and travel in the pack.  

And then you find that the comforting silky spiders’ web of friendship that she has woven over you is actually made of very fine steel.  It’s incredibly difficult to escape.  You find that instead of having an opinion, your voice has turned to a mere froglike croaking.  You look in the mirror and you see a weak reflection of yourself staring back. 

And you realise that you don’t like what you see. And you break free before your get the life sucked out of you, and then get thrown on the pile of carcasses that you have just noticed in the corner of the room.


These friends are your ‘Yes’ / ‘No’ mates.  They give fully of themselves in the quest for tidbits of gossip, can always be relied on for a laugh, and would cheerfully stab you in the back.  However, they are enormous fun.  These tend to be the mid term friends, but can and do appear at any time of your life. 

They could be mummies at school that you befriend because little Johnny likes little Freddie.  They could be work colleagues who become mates through a mutual hatred of your boss.  You could go on holiday with them, live in each others pockets, and for a time you would, in the spirit of friendship, do anything for them.  

Until you realise that that is what you are doing – everything for them.  And their favourite mantra becomes ‘I owe you one’, as they disappear off with someone else. When that time comes, and you see that the mutual support structure is based on golden sunny sand, then it’s time to shift.  Either to firmer foundations with the same structure, or you knock the sandcastle down in your memory as one glorious sundowner fuelled holiday romance.

Climbing out of Ditches

These are your best friends.  They come from all walks of life, and at every stage of life.  These are the ones who pick you up, dust you down and set you back on your feet.  They are the people that you would do anything for, no matter how unreliable/irritating/frustrating they can be at that moment in time, because you know that they would absolutely do the same for you.  

They are the ones who understand what is precious to you, and what you hold dear.  They may be late, but they would never let you down. And you can have a bitch and a giggle over a glass of wine.  And you can drunkenly cast spells over those witches that gave you such a hard time.

And frankly, if you fall in the ditch, they will make you laugh trying to pull you out. 

And hell, if you’re too stuck in the mud of despair, they won’t leave you. They’ll get right there in with you. And hug you tight.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

In The Beginning...

I cannot believe that it has been a year since I started writing #Pantomum as a journey into the unknown world of pantomime, and which evolved into snapshots of living with the boys, the family and life in general.  And as the year has passed, so the kids have grown, Little Man is not so little, Eldest Son tops us all at 15 years old and 6ft 2, and Middle Son is threatening to grow his hair just one cm longer so that he is taller than me.  In a year I now have the smallest feet in the family.  In a year our puppy has become a big lolloping hound, the cats have got used to him and even G, our disliker of canines, has been known to invite him over for a cuddle.

One knackered Backstage Mum (and sea monster)! 

In a year my blog has covered a number of things in a number of styles, whether it is poetry, prose, opinion pieces, the odd review on products or books, or simply just a bit of creative writing. It showed the ups and downs of life, and how people coped with good news and bad.  One of the most popular posts was a fairy story that I wrote for a friends little girl who found out early this year that she had cancer. The comments on A Story for Evie and its follow up post were lovely, and the donations to the Little Princess Trust even better.  I’m pleased to say that she is doing well on the bumpy road to recovery, and has been a very brave little girl with the support of her ever loving family and community.

And it has been a year of reflection. Tomorrow is my 16th wedding anniversary, after a whirlwind romance all those years ago of just three months.  We’ve learned to give, take and compromise.  Running our own businesses has not been easy in the present economic climate.  But we still managed to save for a fantastic driving holiday in Italy, which I attempted in some small way (despite some dodgy internet connections) to share with you in The Italian Job posts.
It’s been a year of acknowledgement.  I’ve spent most of this year beset with Achilles problems, mercifully coming to an end. None of us are getting younger, and the kids are getting older.  In a matter of months I will have 2 teenagers in the house.  The spectre of GCSE’s is looming.  Little Man is nearing the end of junior school.  And I’m now on the downward slope to 50…

And yet our life still is one big pantomime, sometimes I’m the Dame, often I feel like Dandini as I run around after the kids, I’m constantly expected to be the Genie and produce miracles at the nth hour and on occasion I really, really have to stop myself from being the Wicked (Step)Mother. 

And the person who inspired this blog in the first place, Little Man, skips blithely through life, leaving us scrabbling in his wake.  Tonight at 9 years old he takes on the role of Oliver in the musical at a local theatre, with all the aplomb (and accoutrements) of a seasoned performer.  And we would not have it any other way.

Thanks for sticking with us – are you ready for another year of mayhem, madness and merriment? 
Sorry, I can’t hear you?! 
I said… Are You Ready for Another Year of Mayhem, Madness and Merriment?!   
Pant-astic!  Catch you later…

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Learning to say No

I have a very good ‘friend’ who simply can’t say No to anything – be it going on a dinner date with people she can’t bear, being asked for the umpteenth time by a non- reciprocal friend to pick up her child from a team game or asked if she likes the sack-like garment her companion is wearing.
The fact of the matter is that she does it purely for altruistic motives – she doesn’t want to offend, in short, she wants to be liked.  This is, I suspect true of a little bit of all of us.  But, after years of this kind of behavior, she simply snapped and said No.  And she found it so empowering that she said No again and again, and now no one asks her for anything, and she doesn’t have the worry of offending anyone.

 But is this necessarily a good thing for her?  Has the woman who for most of her life relied on others to ask her things to make her say Yes and be needed, now cut off her nose as life whirls on without her, and she is left feeling on the one hand empowered, but on the other hand disenfranchised.

We all do things out of duty.  Let’s take an example. We are hurtling towards Christmas, the day where traditionally familial duty causes the most stressful period of the year.  It is no coincidence that the bulk of divorce applications hit its annual peak in January. We may love our families, but all in one place on one day?  And having to host disparate non life threatening culinary requirements – is Grandma this year a vegetarian who eats fish, or a vegetarian who will eat a little bit of meat?  Who is gluten free this year?  Who can’t eat chocolate, potatoes or will only eat chocolate potatoes?   Who can’t drink anything but the sparkling wine you have been saving in the fridge, but can’t afford to bring a bottle?  What presents do you buy?  How much do you spend?  How do you extricate yourself from the ‘but this is what we always used to do at Christmas’?  

How in short, do you stand up and say ‘No’and not feel disenfranchised or ostracized?  Not No to Christmas per se, but No to the infinite amounts of demands that undermine your sense of being.  There is no point saying Yes to everyone if you are miserable about saying so – it genuinely reflects back, at some point.  Do you wait until you simply snap and start saying No to everything, and then feel unhappy when no one asks your opinion?  Or is there a way to gently introduce the idea of saying No, so that you can say it with confidence and truth?

Perhaps start a little slowly.  ‘You know what?  That dress doesn’t bring out the best in your figure.  I really loved that blue dress you wore the other day.  It brought out the colour of your eyes’.  Or ‘I know you really love sitting in front of the telly for five hours over Christmas, but I thought this year we would play some board games – do you have any suggestions?’  Or ‘Why don’t we do a Secret Santa this year, it would be so much fun and save everyone some money?’

And when you are really confident , you can become the Machiavelli of No - and when that mother asks you yet again to pick up her child, smile sweetly and say ‘Of course I will.  But would you do the same for me next week as I have an appointment?  I am happy to provide the snacks as usual?’  It’s a Yes with a No, and a twist…

It may fail disastrously at first.  It will take a while to come into effect.

And remember -failing all else, you could always go Toddler. Shout No, stamp your foot and run away. 

I have found that this works with immediate effect.

(But you may need to sit on the Naughty Step with a glass of wine whilst other mothers eye you disapprovingly.)

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Unsung Heroes

The Lollipop Lady

There are unsung heroes in life
The soldiers, the nurses, the teachers
The man who drives the school bus,
The dinner lady who puts that extra spoonful 
On the little boys plate
Because she knows that he had no breakfast again.
The old man who still walks his dog, who died 3 months ago,
The dog walker who asks for his help, even though she doesn’t need it.
They come in different shapes and sizes, different colours and sounds
One even wears a bright high –vis jacket
She’s the lollipop lady.

She’s not our lollipop lady – we pass her standing at the side of the road
As we drive in our shiny car to school
But she’s always there, and we look out for her
She becomes a start to the day.
In the snow she wears a shapeless long blue waterproof coat
And big blue wellies, her cheeks all flushed.
My kids love it when she stops the car, walking into the road with her sign
As children file like ducklings behind her
And mums with buggies straggle along in bunches chatting.
Sometimes she gets a wave from us, and she waves back
Sometimes one of the ducklings says Thank You, but not often.

And one day she was not there, and my kids were sad.
‘Where’s the Lollipop Lady?’ they asked, their morning stupor gone
And she didn’t come back for several weeks
Cars no longer slowed their pace
In recognition.
My kids stopped looking for her.
Until today.
We saw her at her post
Thinner, hugging the buggy women who greeted her
Noticing her at last
Standing proud, in her high – vis jacket.

©Ruth Morrison 2014