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.)