Category Archives: Friendship

Prague and why we will be back soon…with the kids!

Prague…we very nearly didn’t get there, but we made it – just – and boy am I glad we did! We had a brilliant time, the birthday boy was well and truly taken by surprise, and we had a really lovely weekend of eating, drinking and making merry in truly brilliant company. Just what the doctor ordered, actually, so THANK YOU Czech friends for making it possible for me to be there – and equally to the UK contingent who took part in the childcare relay!

In the blur of the baby and toddler years, I had forgotten just how much I loved the Czech Republic. We used to visit a couple of times a year before we had kids and I am pretty sure we blithely assumed that we would carry on doing so; looking back, we did visit twice with our biggest boy, and then once after his sister had appeared. That final trip was hard work. One was getting over chickenpox and the other was just starting it; all I can remember was being exhausted and blurry and though we never actually made a decision to stop visiting, it just sort of disappeared off the agenda of what felt copable-with, especially after our third arrived. Luckily for us, our lovely Czech friends visited the UK in between times, so I guess I sort of didn’t really notice that we’d stopped going there, if that makes sense.

I’m so, so glad that I went, this time. Even after a gap of six and a half years, and having lost all (and I do mean – ALL!) of my basic Czech in the meantime, I still felt immediately at home when we stepped off of the plane, and even more so when we left the city the next day for our friend’s surprise party. A huge part of this was about slipping back into easy friendships – including reconnecting with some folk that we hadn’t seen since our wedding back in 2002 – plenty to catch up on!

But it was also about remembering how much I love the Czech countryside, and even more than that, the fact that the Czechs themselves are so good at enjoying the great outdoors, just as it is. I’m certainly guilty of overlooking that sometimes – when I’m trying to figure out how to entertain the kids, I’m always focussed on things to do, and places to visit, much more than simply just getting outdoors and exploring.  When we arrived at Hotel Kouty for the party, the first thing the Husband and I said to each other was ‘wow, the kids would LOVE it here’ – yet there was nothing but a lake, a forest, and a couple of climbing frames.  No overpriced ice cream and coffee joints; no ridiculously expensive pedalos, no rides, no amusements, no crazy golf, none of the stuff they clamour for just because it’s there. But we were right – they would have loved it, and we need to remember that a bit more, rather than always be looking for places with ‘stuff to do’.

I was also reminded how refreshing the Czech approach to parenting is, something I had noticed and hoped to emulate before I had kids myself – but, swept away with all the advice and rules and self flagellation that appears from nowhere the minute you pop one out, I had completely forgotten about. While we were over there, most of our friends’ kids (aged between 5 and 12) were away at camp, where they stayed for 12 days or so, doing all sorts of outdoor activities, with no parental contact whatsoever. My initial reaction was – 12 days? How would my kids manage without me for 12 days? They’d miss me terribly! Who would make sure they were taking their asthma puffs, cleaning their teeth properly, wearing respectable pants? However it gradually dawned on me that this was more about me and my anxieties, and the fact that I’d miss them terribly, rather than about how they would actually cope.  Which would probably be pretty well, particularly if they were with their siblings and friends, and if it was simply what everyone did every year. I’m not quite ready to send them off to camp just yet, but I am reminded that I should try and distinguish between what is good for them, and what feels comfortable to me, and not get the two things mixed up.

It also dawned on us while we were away that while a trip abroad with kids who were say 6, 4 and 18 months felt like something we didn’t even want to consider, travelling when they are 9, 7 and 4½ is a whole different ball game, and perhaps it’s time to get back on the horse, so to speak! All the more since while we’ve been spawning, so has everyone else, and there are plenty of other children for them to play with while we get to have some quality time with our chums.

So, all in all a successful trip, and one we are hoping to repeat in the not-too-distant future, this time en famille! To Be Continued!

When Twitter gets real

I’ve noticed that something weird is happening recently. It’s the people in my phone. Turns out that I quite like some of them. And it turns out (MUPPET ALERT) that I don’t really like liking them.

I’ve always found a sort of freedom on Twitter, a confidence that I don’t have at the school gates or at social events. I’ve asked questions, engaged in debate, joined in with jokey chit chat about this and that. I don’t feel the pressure to be amusing that I feel when I’m feeling slightly out of my depth (as I feel slightly out of my depth about 99% of the time, and I am not remotely funny even when I try really REALLY hard, I suspect this is a trial for all around me). I’ve felt very free to come and go as I please with no strings attached – sometimes I drop in on Twitter for a chat a couple times a day, sometimes I don’t pick it up for a week or so – just depends how busy I am. But the great thing is when I do pick it up again, it’s all pretty much the same, and there’s no subtext or guilt for not having been around.

I’ve always regarded the people in my phone as being just that – people in my phone. People who I would never encounter in real life. And that makes them very easy to enjoy, because the whole anxiety thing about whether I’m funny enough, smart enough, a good enough parent, part of the gang or not – that whole ticker tape of stress that never, ever turns off in my day to day social interactions, is remarkable by its absence in my twitter life.

But over the last, I don’t know, the last few months, something has changed a bit. I have noticed now that if I don’t see someone in my feed for a while, especially if I know they are having a stressful time, I check in on their timeline to see if they’re around and ok. More often than not they are fine, and we’ve just been online at different times. But it’s nice to know that they’re ok. Sometimes they’re not – and in that case I’ll usually drop an @message or DM to let them know I am thinking of them. And to my utter amazement, this also happens the other way around too.

But that’s kind of nice, right? A bit of mutual looking out for each other is a GOOD THING, surely? Well, yes, of course it is…as long as it stops there. But it’s a slippery slope – one minute you’re checking on a twitter buddy and next thing you know they are becoming REAL PEOPLE with all the guff that entails…mostly, it must be said, my guff rather than theirs.

For example. Recently I read this post. It’s a very funny rant about shit writers (and there’s a lot more swearing where that came from, so Mother – don’t click that link. No really, DON’T). After I had spat my tea out laughing my way through it, I read it again, because it was funny, and true, and – then, a slowly rising tide of panic – OhmygodIknowshereadsmyblogwhatifsheisbloggingaboutMYSHITWRITING?  In the old days, I’d be all ‘oh well some random on Twitter thinks I’m a shit writer – meh’. Now, NOW, every time I sit down to write, the words SHIT WRITER flash up in front of my eyes like some sort of warning. Great.

Next thing,  a twitter buddy visited Cardiff with her kids for the day. She’s an anonymous blogger, so I don’t even know what she looks like, and I found myself thinking that we might have passed each other in the street and I’d never know. Then I found myself thinking oh god, what if we did, and she recognised me from my avi, and then I’d have had to be all funny and clever and stuff, or she’d have realised I’m an absolute bloody muppet. Or worse, what if we DID pass each other and she recognised me and RAN A MILE THE OTHER WAY so she didn’t have to meet me because she has already figured out the awful truth about my muppetry? Cue panic attack about someone who I have never met, and probably never will meet, who may or may not think I am a muppet.

See what happens when the people in my phone start being real? I start stressing about what they think. I start worrying that when they are talking about shit writers, they are talking about me. I start panicking that even though they are perfectly nice to me, they’re actually, inside, dying to get away. Clearly, as I said earlier, this is my guff rather than theirs. But still, I don’t need this! I LIKED it when the people in my phone were not real! I LIKED not being nervous and self conscious and having to pretend that my life is all under control and all that stuff that is so exhausting face to face. And now all that shit is coming to get me on twitter too…FFS. Is there NO escape?

Oops. I meant to write a funny post about twitter. It turns out I’ve written a horribly revealing post about social anxiety instead. And I STILL don’t know what to do about the people in my phone that I like that I don’t like liking. Except perhaps set up a new, amazingly funny and witty and totally non-anxious persona on twitter and find a whole load of new people to follow that I don’t like, yet.

Beach Buddies in Northern Ireland

It seemed such a long time ago that my chum Tanya from BeachLifeEtc and I booked flights to see our lovely friend Jo in Northern Ireland, that I was almost surprised when last Friday came upon us and it was actually time to head off to the airport.  After various showdowns about the fact that I was a) taking (MY) iPad and b) not taking any children, Tanya picked me up at 3.30pm and off we went!

I think I had mentioned to poor Tan that I’m not a great flyer, and we’ve known each other for nearly 15 years (FIFTEEN? How did THAT happen) so she is aware of my tendency to get hyperactive and flappy when I’m nervous. But even so, I think she was taken aback by just how hyperactive and flappy I managed to become as the time for takeoff came closer. I might even have had a dirty look from the cabin crew for swearing slightly  during the safety briefing, in response to Tan whispering to me that the scraping noise I could hear outside was ‘just them tightening the wings up, sweetie’. Ooops.

But once we were up there things weren’t too bad, except for the odd minor panic attack whenever the plane turned (why does it have to do that? Can’t all runways everywhere be giant turning circles so the flipping things can just take off in the right direction and fly in a straight line?) and then in no time we were coming down, getting off the plane, and jumping in the car with Jo to head off to Magilligan Point, where there was everything we needed – cottage, pub and beach, all within 30 seconds walk. Perfect!

What with catching up on all the gossip, we didn’t make it to bed until well after midnight – not that it mattered as none of us woke up until about half past nine – bliss, bliss bliss! After a frankly amazing breakfast prepared by Jo involving pistachios, couscous, raspberries, oranges and natural yoghurt, we headed out go for a bracing walk around the National Trust property of Downhill Demesne where in true Muppet form I managed to fall over and get half caked in mud…

We reached Mussenden Temple without further muppetry, and my goodness I can see why it’s reputed to be one of the most photographed spots in Northern Ireland. The temple was originally built as a reading room but is now used as a venue for weddings amongst other things, though on wet and muddy days you’d probably need to travel in a 4 x 4 rather than a vintage motor.

We then headed over to explore the now ruined Downhill House for some more exploring – and star jumps and selfies!

After all this fresh air, we headed home for some lunch before going for a long and lovely beach walk along Magilligan Point, ending up back in the pub where we had a cheeky Guinness (or two) to set us up for our evening meal…

I cannot tell you how lovely and long the day seemed. You know how time races when you have kids, because you’re always running for the next pickup, planning the next meal, preventing the next world war? Well, we didn’t have to do any of those things, having left our various husbands and kids elsewhere, and I think I speak for all three of us when I say that this gave us a real sense of headspace.

Unfortunately the time going slowly bit did not last into the next day! Sunday seemed to whizz by all too quickly, though we did manage to get a short and freezing walk up a mountain, a coffee and a cake and some bookshop browsing in Coleraine (though the world’s biggest shoe shop wasn’t open, sob) and of course LOADS more chat before it was time to get on the plane back to Bristol…and this time I managed not to swear during the flight safety briefing. Da iawn fi!

A MAHOOSIVE thank you to Jo for having us, and Tan for holding my hand on the flight, and to both of you lovely ladies for putting up with my general muppetness for the last fifteen years….let’s do it again soon, yeah? x x

Since I’ve had a break, I’m DEFINITELY being much less grumpy at home. And that’s good, right? Well guess what – you too can help prevent my kids from phoning Childline by helping me get another grownup night away – this time at a swanky dinner! All you have to do is click this lovely picture and nominate me for whatever takes your fancy. There’s no biggest muppet award but there is a ‘Best New Blog’ category…THANKYOU!

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