Success at dating? I went to Ibiza and came back with a pen pal.

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Back in 1999, me and two single friends went to Ibiza trying to be Zoe Ball, recreating the bottle of Jack Daniels, straw hat and jean shorts vibe hanging out at Manumission, or whatever the cool clubs were at the time.

We were young, we were single and (most importantly) ready to embrace the party spirit. Booze cruises, skimpy bikinis, banana boats, beaches, phat beats, sun, sea and..

very, very little in the way of ‘action’.

I say very little because there was one encounter with a bronzed god – the only evidence of this pissed up and instantly forgotten rendezvous being a receipt from a photographer and an address in San Antonio’s clubbing heartland. As me and my friends went to said location brandishing the ticket, we found a small shop in one of the rabbit warrens of the West End district. Staring back a me was a lovely photo of him and someone who bared an uncanny resemblance to me looking like I’d won the lottery. Thinking back now I bet he was no stranger to the laydeez – he probably gained a dose of syphilis or fathered several children that summer.

Towards the end of our holiday, me and the girls became friendly with three boys from the apartment down the hall. They seemed nice and I found myself talking to one of them more than the other two. But he was even more awkward at the subject of hooking up with someone than I was, so despite some skirting around the subject (and a nice hour sat next to him on a beach while one of my friends went skinny dipping with one of his friends), there wasn’t even a kiss. We did however, swap addresses and I thought no more about it. But, a week or so later, a letter from my holiday friend came through the letterbox telling me all about his life and what he’d been up to since he had returned from the holiday.

My pen pal and I never hooked up, but the experience does spring to mind when people tell me that they are jealous of my new single status. ‘You get the chance to date again’ some have said rather excitedly as though their previous dating horror stories have all been forgotten…

I was open to the idea. Perhaps now as a late 30-something mum I’d be more confident, more willing to make the first move and less prone to falling for the boys who clearly weren’t interested in me.

But, my part of the world is a small place and the pond is not overflowing with suitable fish. And the chances of meeting someone diminish greatly when taking the demands of parenting into consideration. Which is fine, I’m not complaining about this… it just explains my next move..

According to some survey I stumbled upon thanks to the power of Google, seven million people living in the UK are using online dating – so that’s more than 10 per cent of us. Yup, I said ‘us’. Come on, you knew this was where I was going anyway!

Anyway, I dipped in a toe and made a hasty retreat. A few online conversations and all the social awkwardness and self consciousness of the girl with the Ibiza pen pal came flooding back.

For starters, WTAF is Tinder? I can’t work out what it’s aim is – sex? If that’s the case, how is it that I ended up talking about photography? (Of a beach, in case you were thinking anything a bit risque..). Pretty sure I actually managed to repel the men who showed up on my profile – I was fairly bullish about this in the beginning – especially those who went silent at the mention of the boy – as this helped weed out the undesirables. But after a while it became a little soul-destroying.

My next port of call was Bumble, where the women have to message the men. I’m a modern woman, thought I, so why not? Turns out I’m not as IT literate as I like to think as try as I might I could not remove the bit that showed the name of my employer. ONLINE DATING IS FULL OF STALKERS SO I CAN’T TELL THEM WHERE I WORK!! So I closed my account.

At this point I made the noble decision to take myself off the market. Time to ‘focus on myself’, new hobbies (one tap dancing class), writing (a couple of blog posts) and reading (other blog posts).

Curiosity got the better of me however. And I took a browse of Plenty of Fish – free obvs… A host of interesting individuals arrived at my mailbox – men who seem to believe the way to a woman’s heart is confirmation that they use drugs ‘socially’, describe themselves as being ‘back here again’ or ‘losing hope’ and go by names such as ‘Spermy’ (yup!) and ‘Sketchy’. Guys, seriously.

After this first tranche of interest I started to think that perhaps paying for an online dating service might bring me better joy? As the present situation seemed to bring me a sort of ‘buy cheap, buy twice’…

And then, just as I was starting to think I would have to delete my account or actually pay for a dating service, along came a nice guy who has hobbies, interests, a job and does his fair share with his kids (or so he tells me). I gave him my phone number, he texted and after I did the thoroughly modern task of a comprehensive Google and social media search to verify his identity we have agreed to meet up later this week. I am nervous and excited and terrified and trying not to become a crazy person. It’ll be my first, first date in 15 years.

I’ll keep you posted.

This Mum's Life

A rose by any other name…

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I’m currently leading a double life – oh it’s all very exciting, don’t you know. Totes a post millennial thing. Think baggy topped legging-ed single mother living with parents by day, sultry vixen-like divorcee by night solving crime on the mean streets of Cornwall…

Yeeesss, maybe not. More back-in-childhood-bedroom watching Gilmore Girls reruns on Netflix trying not to demolish a bag of Maltesers. (And now that lots of people are describing their evenings as being of a ‘Netflix and Chill’ nature, I guess I’m not the only one doing this. Because that is what it means, yeah?!)

So anyway, rather than the mystery and intrigue, we’re talking a fairly low level double life here. Married mother versus single mum with a different surname to her son.

It’s a bit of a half way house situation at the moment – pure laziness on my part has meant some know me by one name, others by another. Which has been awkward at times – particularly at work when I was congratulated on the recent marriage. It was more awkward for them though, to be fair…

I always knew that I would revert back to my maiden name after the divorce. This was about me and my identity, not what rules ‘Society’ says I should conform to. (Get me, next I’ll be in my Doc Martens carrying a placard and wearing a nose stud)

Problem is, it’s not just ‘about me’ anymore. It’s about that gorgeous blonde haired, blue eyed, pain-in-the-arse toddler sleeping in the next room. And while I know I did the right thing for me, my resolution wavers a little when I think of him. Especially for as he gets older. Will he be teased at school? Will he think this was to do with rejection of him? Or, as – for the most part…no politics here… – times and the make up of families has changed and we’re becoming a bit of a more tolerant society, is this all in my head?

I ploughed on regardless with changing my driving licence, bank details and work email. I even changed my name on Facebook and Twitter – now you can tell I really meant business…

But, the Judgey McJudgerson in me is stopping me from making the change with the doctor’s. Even last week at the walk in clinic, I gave my old, married name, fearful that someone would question whether my son was actually mine.

The prejudice lies with me, I know. So until I can be completely at peace with my decision, I guess I have to keep reminding myself that the only names that truly matter here are ‘Mum’ and ‘Son’.

 

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

The curse of the ingrained habit…

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During my first year at university I developed a weird addiction to Battenberg cake. I would wake in the early hours  desperate to devour a slab. Sponge first, of course – you have to save the marzipan til last. I’m actually embarrassed to confess it here, but it does illustrate the point I’ll make shortly.

This night snacking went on for about a fortnight – each night, around 2am, I would just have to eat some. No matter how much food had been consumed earlier in the day, the hunger pangs were there.

How does this fit in with today’s blog? Patterns. Or rather, how something you do for a couple of days suddenly becomes ingrained habit. I’m guessing that’s the psychology at work with the whole eat-something-you-don’t-like-at-least-20-times-and-then-you’ll-like-it. (except that really hasn’t worked for me with fish…)

Oh I’ve persevered with fish but I still really hate it (except for a good fish finger sandwich). Anyway, where was I? Sorry, patterns. Habits. Now, unless we’re talking about the serious stuff of drug and/or alcohol abuse, breaking a pattern is fine when you’re an adult, because you can get your shit together. As I did with the evil Battenberg – on the realisation of the role it played in the rapid weight gain and return of the dreaded teenage acne, I soon banished the pink and yellow squares.

Try telling a toddler though that they can’t keep eating the sugary cereal that you were forced to buy in the absence of anything vaguely healthy when on holiday, or join you in bed at 2am because ‘a lobster pinched my elbow’, ‘Mr Sun’s up’ (he most definitely is NOT) or ‘I can’t find my Transformer’. You will have a battle on your hands of epic proportions, my friend.

What may have made life easier for a couple of days has now become much like when your child has a firm grip on the lead of your hair straighteners while you’re trying to use them – delicate extrication is required.

You can try distraction (praise the Lord for CBeebies at breakfast), threats (‘eat your breakfast or I’ll make you come shoe shopping with me’), a heartfelt plea (‘please, please, please go back to sleep’) or prayer (‘Lord, could you please assist in this whole not sleeping malarky, because I’m going to lose my shit very soon… I swear if I can get a good night’s sleep tonight, I’ll let the boy do some painting tomorrow. Heck, I may even let him do some baking’.)

None of the above has worked so far – my son clearly has an iron will – it took a good fortnight of ‘the shop doesn’t sell your cereal any more’ to end the morning tantrums over the teeth-rotting crap. But before I have you thinking I’ve cracked this whole motherhood thing… this has  been replaced with a Biscotti before milk at bedtime. And he’s still joining me in bed most nights… *big sigh*  He doesn’t get his willpower from me.

So, what wisdom can I impart from this experience? Pick your battles – if it’s not going to kill him, or you (although we’re borderline with sleep deprivation…), then let it go. Chances are it’ll be much like every other phase up to this point so far, short lived and replaced with something a little more complicated next time.

 

These guns ain’t made for Body Pump

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Holy crap I can barely move my arms. And if I have to pick something up off the floor, it’s taking a good five seconds to encourage my thighs to get up again.

No, I don’t have the flu. Much worse (because this is self inflicted) – I went to a Body Pump class. Which shouldn’t have been that much of an ordeal given the amount of work these guns do every day. Surely these muscles have benefited from the daily toddler lifting/bending while lifting/achieving feats that you wouldn’t think possible while conducting daily tasks carrying a child doing some sort of flailing plank?

With small child’s bed time and subsequent scream-fest to consider, it has been harder than I thought to find a fitness class that fits in with the schedule.But then again, this is Cornwall, not New York where I imagine there are all night spinning classes mixed in with some sort of new fangled thing that has really good music and gives instant weight loss. Or something…

The other fitness class I’ve done recently and actually properly enjoyed is Clubbercise – a far friendlier affair that takes me back to my teenage years. If Clubbercise had been around in the 1990s, I’m sure there wouldn’t have been quite as many nights I’d like to forget. But I guess sales of Hock and Liebfraumilch would have suffered so… you’re welcome cheap wine industry.

Anyway, Body Pump, for the uninitiated, lays claim to being the quickest way to lose weight and tone up – there’s a bar,  weights, press ups and squats to test the strongest of wills. I thought it was perfect for a time poor, lazy mare like me who lacks the willpower to commit to exercising three times a week (or whatever it is we’re supposed to do now. Am guessing this advice has been superseded by something much less achievable, in the way that the recommended five a day fruit and veg has now become a highly realistic seven).

This isn’t my first BP experience… The introduction to my tricep muscles (or reminder of how much they can hurt when you use them) began 10 years ago. Me and a former boyfriend went religiously for about a month – he threw up after the first one and two days later I couldn’t pick up the office telephone.

I did sample another BP class – one where I didn’t feel bad for selecting a couple of 2.5kg weights… However, this class no longer coexists with the child raising requirements and so I’ve had to look elsewhere. Which brought me to the door of the instructor from a decade ago. The instructor who works on the ‘you’re not letting me down… but yourself’ school of motivation. It worked – grrr – the weights were heavier than before (a whole 1.25kg – oh yeah!). But I’m already feeling ropey…and obvs looking forward to the proper pain in two days time when the combining daily tasks with carrying the flailing planking toddler is sure to be even more entertaining than usual…

As always, I welcome your views on this sort of thing – how do you find fitting in child raising, work and exercise? Can you recommend a class that can boast results without killing muscle groups that you don’t know exist until you hurt them real bad?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paddle your own canoe

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(yes, I know it’s a boat, but same difference…)

I think I’m having a bit of an identity crisis at the moment (first world problems, yeah?). Recently divorced after a ten year plus relationship and I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t actually know myself at all.

It is Tinder to thank for this realisation – I know, I went on Tinder. Do you think a little less of me now? I was only on it for about five minutes before I realised what a bad idea it was – am hopeless at small talk in person, so what hope did I have of striking up a conversation with someone who had deemed me worthy of communication based on a photo? Yes, I’d also judged based on a photo – whatevs… (sidetrack – should that be ‘wevs’? Still learning cool, chilled, breezy speak. And yes, merely stating these three things means I am none of them…).

Where was I? Oh yes, Who Am I?

So, yes Tinder helped me establish that I had no direction, no real interests and no clue as to what I wanted out of life/my next relationship/dinner that night. The limited conversations I had with men centred around them asking me what I liked to do (um, given the nature of this particular app, am now not sure if these weren’t actually life/recreational questions but more of enquiries of a ‘spicy’ nature…)

Having a pretty much full time job and a small child kind of help distract from these important questions. (Dinner being the most important, obvs.. I’m doing it again…)

Back to ‘The Canoe’. Have you heard the phrase ‘Love many, trust few, always paddle your own canoe’? I only heard it recently – but it had one of those lightbulb moment effects.

Looking back over my adult life so far, I think once I was in a long term relationship I sort of coasted. Compromise meant, a lot of the time, not doing the things I wanted to do and instead trying to accommodate someone else’s interests. I wanted to share experiences with my partner, not do things in isolation. So I didn’t do much at all.

(That’s not really a pop at my ex, by the way – this is squarely on me. We didn’t have many shared interests – warning sign anyone?! But, that shouldn’t have stopped me from doing anything I wanted to do.)

By putting all my focus on my relationship, I forgot about learning and growing for myself. And appreciating that life isn’t about looking for what will happen next, but what is happening in the here and now. I didn’t paddle my own canoe, I just wanted to be carried along with someone else’s.

In true Bridget Jones generation fashion I have turned to books for inspiration (although the books are no longer on the shelf, but on my Kindle). Yup, when once I would have scoffed at ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’, I’m now gaining some well-timed and much needed motivation. I’d recommend it. But if you want less ‘self help’ guide and more ‘kick ass advice’, go for Cheryl Strayed’s ‘Tiny Beautiful Things – advice on love and life from someone who’s been there’. She’s wise, that Cheryl.

Will I go back to learning the guitar? Learn a language? How to do electrics and stuff? Who knows for the moment. But I’m enjoying learning the things that I didn’t know I didn’t know about. (have to read that one carefully!!)

As the quote by Emerson goes: “Life is a journey, not the destination.”

 

 

Sir Grumpsalot and the epic meltdown

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(‘Let me take a photo of you… Go on… Just one’ ‘NO NO NO NO NO NO’)

Yesterday marked a special milestone in the toddler career of my little man – the unstoppable, irrational, typical two-year old’s tantrum culminating in an epic meltdown which left even my four year old nephew complaining of a headache.

The warning signs were there. Lack of sleep? Check. Nose turned up at quality home made food constructed of the finest ingredients (i.e including two different types of vegetables. Oh yeah.)? Check. Recent bout of illness? Check.

And still I ploughed on with a ‘Nice Day Out’. The sun was shining and the weather warm and I was determined that under no circumstances would we spend yet another day inside – either watching some sodding cartoon about cars/dogs/fish OR going to a place that induces an actual smile and genuine pleasure in my child… Yup, Tesco.

(I am a little ashamed of that last bit. WE LIVE FIVE MINUTES FROM THE BEACH, GODDAMMIT! We should be permanently sporting wetsuits, matted hair and beautifully exfoliated feet.)

Anyway, given the close proximity to the water, I announced that we would go to a nearby sea pool which had a heated pool for young children (Of course it wasn’t actually heated… And my inability to read a webpage would come back to haunt me shortly.)

So me, my son, dad, sister and nephew packed up the car and headed off. And as a result of some clever manoeuvring between the adults of the group, I ended up wedged in the back between the children. This was fine in the beginning, entertaining both boys wasn’t too difficult. I had this cool mum/aunt thing sorted.

When we got to the pool, the boys excitedly dragged us into the water, which I later found out was 17 degrees centigrade. Or, to put into context, bloody freezing. Most of the kids in the foot deep water had wetsuits on. We made our retreat after 10 minutes.

As the boys warmed up, they spent the time they should have been spending getting exhausted in the water, by amusing themselves in other ways. Or as we would call it, tapping into their mischievous sides… trying to fall off a little step, running after seagulls and attempting to get back in the water (I mean, how short are their memories?!). Perfect conditions for the onset of a major grump.

The warning signs were there by the time we finally got back to the car about an hour or so later – E didn’t want to get down from the wall he’d been walking on and he certainly didn’t want to get in his car seat. Bribery didn’t work, praising his cousin for sitting nicely failed to have any impact and you can imagine how well my final exasperated ‘Get In’ said through gritted teeth went down.

Cornwall being Cornwall, and very popular at this time of year, meant that our half hour journey home took twice as long. Or forever if you’re stuck with a toddler screaming NOOOOOOOOOO. NO CAR SEAT……GET OUT….. for most of it. The last straw was when my nephew started to cry and mumbled to my sister in the passenger seat ‘Mummy I have a headache’…

For my part though, I’m finding it increasingly harder to deal with the temper tantrums. I know it’s part of growing up, but there are times when I just want to stamp my feet on the floor too. And then I remember that I’m supposed to be the grown up.

I don’t want to raise a meek, compliant child who never questions or challenges. And part of the reason he has tantrums is because there have to be limits. So that’s a positive for the parenting bit, yeah? I’m clutching at straws here, but you gotta take the positives where you can…

As with all these things, this morning E woke up none the worse for wear for his ordeal. It’s nice to see he doesn’t hold a grudge. Yet.

 

 

 

 

The Olympic legacy – you want it? Earn it.

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We’ve had a  good Olympics, Britain, haven’t we?

For someone who has very little sporting ability (aside from a pretty mean ‘swagger’ at the weekly Clubbercise class), I’ve been gripped by the talents of Laura Trott, Jade Jones, Helen Glover (well she is from Cornwall), Heather Stanning, Becky James and Amy Tinkler, to name but a few. Yep, go us women! Ok, well done to the men too!

Obvs I was ‘in to’ London 2012 – from the Olympic Torch winding its way along Cornish roads to that opening ceremony, I just remember feeling so proud. In the games makers, in the athletes, in the crowds who cheered everyone on. And then we had the Paralympics too and people who had overcome adversity put us all to shame by being generally bloody amazing. Times were good.

Of course, the legacy from 2012 was about encouraging people to get into sport and becoming Olympians of the future. Would love to comment on whether or not this worked, but my focus since London was to have a baby and, having had said baby in 2014, wallow in self pity over what I used to do with my spare time. (Have just realised that Jessica Ennis-Hill not only had a baby in the same time, but also went on to win a silver at the Heptathlon last weekend. Whatevs…)

So, what do we take from Rio 2016? Having watched many an exhausted athlete interviewed on the finish line as the reality of their medal win sinks in, the overwhelming message has been just how hard they worked for it. Yes, they are supported by trainers and a host of people behind the scenes, but that didn’t all just magically appear on the proclamation of ‘I’m going to be an Olympian’.

Today, more than ever, we hear the positive messages on the theme of being able to do anything you put your mind to. Facebook and Instagram threads are awash with life affirming pictures with positive phrases (like the one in this post that took me five minutes to put together. I have no idea who Beverly Sills is, or if she actually said what she said. But I like it.) Today, more than ever, we can discover what we want to do, find out how to do it – and be supported by a wealth of positivity to give us that gentle nudge in the right direction.

So, let’s dig out our vision boards, feel the fear and do it anyway, get off our arses and do what we say we’re going to do. Wanting it is part of the battle, but it’s the preparation, the action, the bloody-minded dedication, that turns the dream into a reality.