About Me

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I live in Kent with my husband, toddler Tilly (henceforth known as Monkey) and another baby due in November. We have two cats, Duncan and Lady Macbeth, and four chickens who kindly lay us eggs daily. We live in the picturesque seaside town of Broadstairs. I enjoy reading, knitting and cooking. I'm trying to be a bit 'greener' (not sure how successfully), and to be a gentle parent. Extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping don't freak me out, we use cloth nappies and try to follow some of the ideals of Attachment Parenting. If that sounds as if I know what I'm doing, I don't! I am also a psychotherapist with an interest in Focusing-oriented therapy, and I have a small private practice in the area.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Booker Prize Challenge {Review: Me Cheeta}

Cheeta and Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller)

My first read from the Booker shortlist is 'Me Cheeta' by James Laver. This just happened to be the first novel to arrive in the post from Amazon, and it is an unusual addition to the Booker shortlist in that it is a comic novel, a spoof Hollywood memoir 'written' by the chimpanzee Cheeta, who starred in the Tarzan movies of the 30s and 40s. The strength of the novel lies in Cheeta's uniquely bitchy, scathing voice and razor-sharp comments about the movie stars of the day. He hates Chaplin with a passion ("a mono-maniacal bore unstoppably propagandizing his own sexual status"), sees Mickey Rooney as his unworthy rival and has a bad word to say about just about everyone except his beloved Johnny. Some of the gossip is breathtakingly outrageous (a chapter on Esther Williams, titled "Fucking Bitch!", is "removed on legal advice").

But this is not just a scurrilous attack on the movie stars of the Golden Age. It chronicles the loving friendship that Cheeta shared with Tarzan (swimming star and actor Johnny Weissmuller) and there is a real poignancy to Cheeta's attempts to become one of the family, a companion to Weissmuller, rather than, as seems to be the case, something of a variety act that gets wheeled out to do party tricks (drinking and smoking being his particular vices, along with a propensity for masturbation). Lever heavily critiques the use of animals in showbusiness, with Cheeta's fantasy honorary Oscar acceptance speech being dedicated to "every animal that has ever suffered for its cinematic art". Cheeta considers himself fortunate to be 'rehabilitated' from his early life in the jungle of Africa, and welcomes the human race's attempts to remove animals from- nay destroy- their natural habitats:
You know there are slightly more tigers in America today than there are left in the wild? It should be stressed that that's not a cause for celebration just yet: the job's only half-finished... Yes, destroying the forests themselves helps, but we need to get those percentages turned around.
There are some beautiful passages at the beginning of the book describing Cheeta's pre-Hollywood life in the jungle, although his time in the wild is by no means romanticised, it is quite literally a fight for survival.

There are, then, two very different 'sides' to this book: a satirical view of our treatment of animals, and the bitchy spoof Hollywood memoir. They work well together but the limited storytelling potential of a chimpanzee's imagined life experience isn't quite enough to keep the momentum going and I found my interest dipping a little about three-quarters of the way through. I know that some Amazon reviewers have questioned why it is in the Booker shortlist, for me I think the writing is actually very beautiful in places. It is a clever and funny book but not one I would pick up to re-read. I don't think it will win the prize but I can see why it was well-received. It's just not a big enough book to be a winner.

Style Statement {Friend Survey}

Ok, so I'm still doing this Style Statement process. Slowly, because I have a toddler and an imminent house move and the Booker shortlist to read (!) but I am still thinking about this stuff. In the Style Statement book there is a short survey you can ask your friends or loved ones to complete in order to get another perspective on your personal style. So here's what my husband had to say about yours truly:

How would you describe my style? - cautious. a little scared to take risks but when you do it works

What do you think is my greatest personal strength?
- dedication to make yourself and those around you better people.

What do you think it would be good for me to 'let go of' in my wardrobe, home or psyche?
- there isn't a great deal in your wardrobe and there's certainly nothing that offends me. I don't think there's anything in the hom either as you're not a great horader of rubbish or trinkets. It would be good for you to get rid of the worry that you're not good enough at stuff. Less internal competitiveness

When do you feel I am at my best?
- when you're being funny. You are the funniest woman i've ever met and it's one of the reasons i married you.

What do you wish I was less of, for my sake?
Less of a worrier. We're not all judging you.

When have you seen me looking my most fabulous?
On both our wedding days. At [a friend's] wedding you looked absolutely stunning. I was really proud.

What do you think I could give myself more credit for, or celebrate more?
Credit yourself more with the amazing job you do with Tilly She's the most amazingly loved, cared for and nurtured baby. Celebrate your skill at talking to people, don't be shy with them. You've got so much to say and you say it so well. Speak like you write in your blogs. Don't be afraid to say what you think. You've got great breasts so maybe wear lower cut tops, flash them a bit more.

(Did I get the bestest husband in the world or what? He 'gets' me, I know that much)

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Booker Prize Challenge

I always have a pile of books beside my bed (how could you not?) but my current pile tells a rather disappointing and sorry tale of books begun and abandoned, novels-not-finished and a couple of occasional-dip-into books on creativity. My most recent acquisition is a really rotten 'chick-lit' book that I really need to just let go (it's this, supposedly one of the better examples of the genre but it is tosh). Leafing through the Times magazine this evening I came across a special offer for the entire Booker Prize shortlist, and a quick read of the summaries convinced me that for once it might be a good year to dive in. So, in an attempt to raise the bar and remind my poor brain that I did actually get a degree in English Lit in the not-so-distant-past, I hereby announce the Booker challenge. Yes, I am planning to read the shortlist, one novel a week, for the next thirteen weeks. Yikes. I've ordered the first three from Amazon. Some of them are still only in hardback, which I can't get along with at all, so I am planning to start with How to Paint A Dead Man by Sarah Hall, The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey, and Me Cheeta by James Lever. I'll check back in and let you all know how I'm getting on. And do let me know what your summer reads are...

Beautiful Beach Afternoon

A lovely day today:
honest talk
good food
fresh lemonade
(lots of, found in nappy and between toes at the end of the day)

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Thanet Gannet- Broadstairs, Ramsgate, Margate restaurant reviews

IF you happen to be visiting Broadstairs, Margate or Ramsgate this summer, be sure to visit my talented husband's foodie blog, Thanet Gannet. Don't take a chance on a poor food experience, check out his reviews and you're guaranteed a good meal even if the sun doesn't shine.
STOP PRESS: The Thanet Gannet is being published in the local newspaper next week!

Ordinary Days Blog Button!

Do you like my new Ordinary Days blog button? I got some sweet comments from my previous post so I thought I'd make it a regular thing. What do your Ordinary Days look like? I'd love it if you join me (just right-click and save the image from my sidebar, and don't forget to link back so I can have a look!).

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Ordinary Day

Washing and washing-up in the kitchen

New spice jars waiting to be filled


Knitting gone wrong

And me
I'm smiling because I am lucky and grateful for ordinary days

Saturday, 15 August 2009

What we've been up to...

  • I had an unexpected day off work on Tuesday so we headed over to Godstone Farm with the Grandparents. It was a nice place to visit but you probably needed to have a half day there and bring a picnic rather than whizz around in an hour or so as we tried to do. Lots of animals to see and also to pet. There were pens that you could get into and stroke the goats, sheep, rabbits, guinea pigs etc. I felt a little sorry for the animals as there was a constant stream of over-excited children inflicting attention on them. Monkey was quite taken with the goat bridge (see photo above). It was quite reasonably priced at £3.50 per adult and just £1.50 for the Monkey. They've got a soft play area which we didn't use as I can't stand the things
  • House-wise things are dragging on interminably. Apparently (and this according to their own solicitors) we are attempting to buy a house from the laziest people on earth. We don't know whether there is a reason for them dragging their heels or if they are just a bit useless, but the latest date mooted for completion is w/c 7 September, which will be 5 months since our offer was accepted. I just hope our buyers aren't getting impatient, as we could end up living with my parents if they can't wait that long.
  • There have been a couple of bloggy posts recently about fertility and baby-spacing, and this is something that has been on my mind too. A good friend has announced that she is expecting baby number two, just 8 months after her gorgeous little boy was born, and now two of my NCT group have announced their second pregnancies. I am feeling broody! I was always intending to have about a 2.5- 3 year gap between pregnancies but I'm beginning to wonder if I can wait that long. My main worry is about declining fertility. We got pregnant with the Monkey in our third month of trying, which was wonderful (and a relief considering the rather obsessive manner in which I went about trying to get pregnant) but I am not assuming that the next time will be so easy. There has been a lot of press recently about the rapid decline in fertility post-35, and I was 35 earlier this year. I think if someone could guarantee me that I could wait another year and then get pregnant I would wait, but there are no guarantees and rather than risk an extended fertility journey in a year or so I wonder if we should jut be cracking on with it, IYSWIM?! My plan for now is to concentrate on losing a little weight and getting fitter (yes, the perennial problem, and so perhaps we will start trying in the New Year once we get settled in the house. Getting pregnant in the first half of next year will actually be pretty near to the gap that I was intending... fingers crossed(but not legs, ha ha).
  • You might have noticed that I haven't been blogging much about baking or cooking recently (and my food blog has fallen by the wayside). The reason for this has been that I'm back on the Slimming World plan. I just couldn't control my weight by trying to eat well outside of a plan, and SW is the one that I've got on best with in the past. For some reason this time the weight doesn't seem to be coming off as quickly, possibly because I am not breastfeeding as frequently? I've had a couple of social events for which I've gone 'off-plan', but I've been pretty good otherwise so the lack of weight loss is a bit depressing. I'm going to try adding a bit of exercise and will hopefully soon get the bike seat fitted so that Monkey and I can do some cycling. But for now the diet (hate that word) means that I haven't been baking much because I can only eat a very little bread and the very, very occasional cake or treat.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Style Statement {Home & Stuff}

[Image of Mount Fuji and sakura blossom from Flickr]

These are the 'What Does Not Work Well For Me" home questions:

I HAVE FELT OUT OF PLACE OR INCREDIBLY UNCOMFORTABLE: I feel out of place on the occasions that I've found myself in a very business-y environment or office. I sometimes feel out of place among (what I would consider) hyper-cool people.
SOME THINGS IN MY LIVING SPACE I WANT TO TOSS BUT HAVEN'T OR CAN'T: Nothing really, I don't accumulate clutter.
THE MOST RIDICULOUS PURCHASE I EVER MADE WAS: I'm sure there is one but I can't think of it now!
MY IDEA OF AN UNAPPEALING LIVING PLACE OR CULTURE IS: I value cleanliness and hygiene so 18th century England wouldn't suit be well!
IF SOMEONE DIDN'T KNOW ME VERY WELL, THEY'D TAKE ME ON A DATE TO (AND IT WOULD BE DISASTROUS BECAUSE): A trendy nightclub would be one, or a show of some sort requiring audience participation. I *hate* clubs, they make me feel self-conscious about my weight and not feeling cool or fashionable enough. And the show would be awful because I would sit there feeling scared that I would be picked on or asked to go on stage (the horror!)

WHAT WORDS OR CONCEPTS FEEL INTRIGUING OR IMPORTANT TO YOU? It feels important to learn that although I am a very homey person I don't have many objects around me that hold memories or are 'special' in some way, or things that I've held on to for years.
WHAT THEMES ARE SHOWING UP IN YOUR ANSWERS? From these and my previous answers there are clearly themes of home, security, comfort. With a touch of luxury.
WHAT WORDS, IMAGES OR FEELINGS ARE CROSSING YOUR MIND? I'm feeling a little self-critical of my attachment to home and security, that perhaps it is a bit too much and limits me in some way. There's a sense of wanting to be more comfortable with the exotic, the different (Japan, for instance). Does my insistence on home and safety inhibit my creative edge?

Friday, 7 August 2009

Our first trip to A&E

Before the drama

It happens to us all at some point I guess. Monkey and I had just returned from spending a lovely day and evening with my best girlfriend Shelley, she was playing on the lounge floor and kneeling in front of the television. She put her hand out obviously expecting something to be there but instead fell onto the glass TV cabinet, I saw it happen and heard her forehead hit the glass. She let out a huge scream and I carried her into the kitchen as I know she is often sick when she cries really hard. She held her breath after the first scream and I waited for her to inhale again... and waited... and she hadn't taken another breath. "Breathe, sweetheart, breathe". Her eyes rolled back and closed, and one frantic mama is trying to get her baby to breathe again. Less than a minute, but it felt like forever. She came back round to huge screams and cries, and was sick in the sink. I called the ambulance because she had lost consciousness and there were at the front door within 4 minutes! In that time the babe had actually stopped crying and was nestled in my arms as I frantically gathered a bag together and some keys. As we made our way to the hospital I could tell, with much relief, that she seemed to be fine. She was subdued but gave a little smile, there was a bump on the head but no broken skin (the glass is an inch thick and hadn't broken). At A&E they checked her over and waited for an hour to make sure she wasn't sick again. Dada had caught the train home from London and came to collect us. We spent a quiet evening at home, Monkey didn't want to eat but had lots of booby milk. She was a bit lethargic but also possibly because she had her MMR last week and has been a little feverish anyway. I can't even think about how it might have been worse, I'm just thankful that she is fine and that I was calm enough to (hopefully) do all of the right things. But Monkey, please don't ever do that again. Mama doesn't need any more grey hairs...

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Style Statement {Home}- updated

{image from here}

I FEEL MOST AT HOME: at home, indoors, curled on the sofa with my laptop, reading in bed, creating in the kitchen. When all is tidy and neat. Family near.
HOW I FEEL WHEN I'M THERE: content, calm, at peace.
WHAT I VALUE MOST ABOUT THE PLACE/ SPACE / COMMUNITY WHERE I LIVE: a little tricky because we are imminently moving to the seaside, but for now I value that I live in the suburbs but on the edge of London. Family are close. When we move I will (hopefully) value being able to see the sea every single day, and to walk along the bays and the beaches.
A FEW OBJECTS IN MY LIVING SPACE THAT I CHERISH OR TAKE GREAT PLEASURE IN: I've realised that I have little around me that I cherish (objects, that is). I don't tend to hang on to things, I de-clutter radically and often. But I've realised that this is a *want*, that I'd really like to have special things around me, objects that I connect with. For now I think it would have to be family photographs and my laptop which connects me with the world. Fresh flowers too.
MY DREAM HOME IS: hopefully, hopefully, very close.
I LONG TO TRAVEL TO/ AND ONE OF MY FAVOURITE PLACES TO VISIT IS: I love New York. I have a longing to visit Japan (based on reading lots of Murakami and watching Lost in Translation so I'm not sure how accurate this fantasy is!).
MY PERSONAL SANCTUARY IS: Not sure I have one at the moment but a bedroom like the one in the photo above; a hot bubble bath.
I AM AT EASE THERE BECAUSE IT IS: That bedroom because it is calm, warm but uncluttered, with some luxurious and comforting touches.
A COMPLETELY LUXURIOUS/ OUTRAGEOUS THING I'D LIKE TO OWN IS: a villa on a Caribbean island. I'm sure there's more...
I COLLECT OR HAVE A LOT OF: nothing really. Oh, books, of course...

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Style Statement {Style Run: An Inquiry}

So here's one of the first inquiry exercises from the Style Statement book with my answers. I think the purpose of this one is just to get you warmed up and thinking creatively. Since I got the book and began thinking about these sorts of questions I find that thoughts are popping into my head all of the time, like, 'I love bubble baths', 'dazzle is a great word', and 'I must give all of my old nighties to the charity shop' (!). So now I have a new notebook to jot things down in.

WHAT ARE YOU SENSITIVE TO? Critisicm, moods, smells, injustice, narcissism.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST GRATEFUL FOR? Family, health, love, prosperity, good food.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO BE NOTICED FOR? Intelligence, wit, keeping a beautiful home and cooking good food. Great hair.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH BEING RUSHED? I would probably get quite stressed but I have a tendency to rush things myself anyway.
WHEN HAVE YOU BEEN UNEXPECTEDLY VULNERABLE? Yesterday when I read what my husband had wrote about me in response to the 'Ask-A-Friend' Style Statement survey (crying in a good way).
WHAT KIND OF SHOES ARE YOU DRAWN TO? Purple ones. Mary-Janes. Suede boots. NOT stilletos.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT SHOPPING? I'm ambivalent. When the Gods of Shopping are with me I love it, if not it can be frustrating, disappointing and, at its worst, can inspire an attack of self-loathing.
HOW DO YOU FEEL IN A BOOKSTORE? At home, greedy, intoxicated.
WHAT DOES YOUR VOICE SOUND LIKE TO YOU? Too high, too young, too posh.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE WORDS? Tilly. Fur. Syntonic. Debacle. Lie-in. Champagne.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO REVOLUTIONIZE? Attitudes to breastfeeding and parenting/ mothering in general.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Style Statement

I'm going to share with you a self-development exercise that I am embarking on. It feels a bit scary to do so in blog form, mainly because it will be a process which involves looking at and naming both my strengths and vulnerabilities, but also because it is primarily about finding my 'style', which I worry makes it all sound a bit shallow and materialistic. That's not what it's about as I envision it, and I hope it won't come across that way. Image and personal style are important to me, and I hope this process will help me refine my 'look', but I also hope it will help me to nurture and develop my creativity in an individual way, and bring me closer to myself in all senses.
The process is called Style Statement and you can read about it all here or check out the link for the book here. Here's a snippet from the book's dust jacket:
  • What's your style statement? Two words to live by. Your style statement defines your authentic self. It is a compass for creating a life that reflects what's true to you in every way. From your wisdom to your wardrobe, from your longings to your living room- your Style Statement is where your essence meets your experience.
  • Through a unique series of inquiries into what you long for, what inspires you, and what you're attracted to- as well as what doesn't work for you, Style Statement guides you to discover two profoundly descriptive words that capture your essence. Based on the 80/20 principle, the first word represents your foundation, your 80%. The second word is your creative edge- the 20% of your image that motivates and distinguishes you.
  • Applied with intention, your Style Statement will become a real tool for making powerful choices that inspire the spirit, look and feel of your life- a life that genuinely shines.
So why would anyone *need* a style statement, and why do I want one? For as long as I can remember I have felt that the true, honest essence of me gets obscured by fear; fear of judgement, criticism, disapproval from others. A fear of truly being myself and of making a commitment to that 'me'. I want to find my voice. I want to paint a picture of myself that resembles me, rather than what I think others want to see. I want to stop qualifying and judging myself. I want to live freely and creatively, and inspire my daughter to do the same. I love ideas and theories and different styles and ways of living, but I often get lost amid it all. I end up trying to be all things to all people. I want to know and practice a few things well instead of jumping from subject to subject, from idea to idea. Variety is good and I thrive on the feeling of recognising something new which might inspire me, but I also want to stick with it past the new-and-exciting phase, and that means knowing if a particular thing is 'me' or 'not-me'. I also hope that this process will encourage me to make an effort, for myself that is. I know I am mama to a toddler but that's not a reason to forget to cleanse and moisturise my skin, or to pull on the nearest T-shirt and jeans from a pile on the floor each morning. Aren't I worth more than that?
Ah so this is interesting. I just left this post to go and make breakfast for me and the Monkey, and whaddaya know, the negative, doubting internal voices began their work:
  • "What makes you think anyone is interested in this?"
  • "You are so shallow"
  • "Who are you to go on about yourself like this?"
  • "This will be no different to any of the other things you've started doing and subsequently given up on"
So rather than let them have the last word I am going to have my reply. I know that this post might be interesting to someone because I love to read the blogs of creative women doing similar self-development work- that's how I found the book, after all. But if no one is interested, that shouldn't matter because I am doing this for myself, and I need to learn to use my internal compass rather than wait for approval or interest from others. This process is not about buying the right shoes or accumulating 'stuff' and possessions. If anything it is about reducing waste by making savvy, clever choices that are right for me. It is about coming to feel at home, at ease with myself. And finally, if I give up on this? This is where am I, presently, in this moment, and that has intrinsic value. I *hope* it will lead me somewhere and sustain my interest but it's a tool and a process, I'm not joining a religion after all!

Hopefully I will have time to post again later today with one of the first exercises from the book...