How important is Grandma?

10/08/2010 - 6 Responses

In my highly technical research and  experience of life in general  (well watching re-location, escaping to the country type programmes!), it seems that once people have children, they like to live nearer to their  family.  Most women want to move to live near their mothers – just not TOO close!  Is this just because they want free babysitters and childcare, or are they thinking it would be good for the children to grow up knowing their grandparents?

When I was small, my granny lived round the corner from us along with my aunties.  In those days, lots of families had relatives living on the same street, never mind in the same town.  When I was about three we moved to another town and I didn’t see them quite as much as it involved a long bus journey – my mother didn’t drive then.  A few years later we moved to ano ther county and now only saw them once a month.  Although I can’t have spent that much time with my granny, I can still remember the things we did.  She would tell me stories about when she was a little girl and how poor they were.  We used to watch wrestling and rugby league on ‘Word of Sport’ on ITV and she’d make me a dish of boiled (old) potatoes, with a slice of cold butter on top.  Once she asked me if I wanted a ‘cakey’, I eagerly waited for this special treat, which turned out to be a jam sandwich!   I stayed at her house overnight a few times and  can still remember the cold lino under my feet in the bedroom and getting sterilised milk out of the pantry for my cereal in the morning.  She used to let me run errands for her too and I would go to the greengrocers where they would pour potatoes and carrots straight into the old hessian shopping bag I took with me.  She would defend me against anybody and told me I’d ‘look bonny even if I was in rags’ and that I should be entered into the ‘Miss Pears’ competition.  (younger people will have no idea what that was!)

My dad’s mother lived about five hours away in Bournemouth and I can only remember her coming to stay with us a couple of times.  My brother had to be pushed out of his bedroom and I had to share with my sister.  Special things were bought and soap and towels put in the room, along with a mirror and clock. (Stuff that a five year old boy’s ropm didn’t normally have)  We visited her a couple of times and I can remember a garden with flowers and a swing outside.  This was a far cry from my other granny’s terraced house with its backyard and outside lavatory.

When I got married and had my children, all the grandparents were working full time (well my parents were only 42!) although living only 15 minutes away.   Because of this we used to see them about twice a week.  When my then youngest was two, we moved a two hour journey down south, so visits were rare but special.  Do children need to see their grandparents often to develop a bond with them?  These days it is easier with the internet, skype, twitte & facabook, but can that replace actually seeing them in the flesh?

By the time my parents had retired, my brother and sister both had children and lived near enough to visit and benefit from babysitting and childminding (I had two more children by now).  My sister in law lived with her parents and had childcare on tap.  I felt my children missed out having that closeness to their grandparents. the abilitiy just to call in on the way home from school.  Being able to visit them without parents in tow, so they could have a moan, or be indulged with stuff that parents won’t allow them to do or have.

Now I have my own grandsons, they also live far away, two of them in the US and the other a two hour car journey away (more if traffic’s bad).  I would love it if we were closer, so that the special relationship could develop.  Luckily they have their maternal grandmothers close by.  It would be lovely to do the little things together on our own. Just going for a walk, or doing some cooking, visitng the library or the park.  At the moment they’re all a bit young to do that.  It’s lovely however, when we do see them – it’s a special occasion and a holiday (particularly in US) and hopefully when they’re older, they’ll all be able to come and stay with us, without their parents. so we, like all grandparents, can indulge them, knowing we can hand them back at the end!

You might want to look at this too, kindly suggested by @himupnorth

http://www.rias.co.uk/media_centre/allpressreleases/grandparents_take_strain_of_summer_holiday_childcare/http://www.rias.co.uk/media_centre/allpressreleases/grandparents_take_strain_of_summer_holiday_childcare/http://www.rias.co.uk/media_centre/allpressreleases/grandparents_take_strain_of_summer_holiday_childcare/http://www.rias.co.uk/media_centre/allpressreleases/grandparents_take_strain_of_summer_holiday_childcare/http://www.rias.co.uk/media_centre/allpressreleases/grandparents_take_strain_of_summer_holiday_childcare/http://www.rias.co.uk/media_centre/allpressreleases/grandparents_take_strain_of_summer_holiday_childcare/http://www.rias.co.uk/media_centre/allpressreleases/grandparents_take_strain_of_summer_holiday_childcare/http://www.rias.co.uk/media_centre/allpressreleases/grandparents_take_strain_of_summer_holiday_childcare/

Roots

19/07/2010 - 3 Responses

Are you embarrassed by your roots?  I know I like to keep mine covered when the grey starts to show through! But with the current series of  ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, I’m thinking more of historical ones.  It always seems that they find some glamorous character in the ‘victims’ family tree, or a famous or infamous  person, sometimes even royalty.

I have done a bit of digging up my roots, but so far nothing glamorous.  They all seem to have been weavers, or railway workers.  All working class people living in soot blackened terraces in the north of England. Nothing remarkable there.  Then I found the joining up papers of  Richard Bullough, my late father’s uncle, my great uncle.  I’d never heard of him before,  But here he was, signng up for the first World War.  He must have been desperate to join up – a way out of a humdrum future perhaps? He joined up on 25th  August 1914 aged  ’17years and 170 days’. 

For a standard form it made sad reading:  Height 5′ 5″ & a half inches – he must have been proud of that extra half inch!  Chest: 33″, Weight 107 lbs, Eyes: Blue.  He was only a child.!  Delving further, I found receipts signed by his mother for his pay, which was sent home,  a record of him being ‘absent without leave’ in town in France after a few drinks.   I could picture him dreading going back to the sights and smells of the trenches.  Blotting it out with beer.

Then on 25th September 1915, a year after joining up –  another note ‘killed in action’ it said bleakly. Even though Ihadn’t known of his existence before, it was like a blow to thee heart. Poor , poor lad, what had he seen and been through? How must his mother feel, her youngest son gone at only 18 ?  Richard Bullough

A little further on, I found a receipt signed by his mother, not for his wages this time but for a war medal and a victory medal.  I hope that gave her some comfort, though that ewasn’t until 1921.

So although there is no royallty or famous people in my familytree, there are people that made a difference, who worked hard for little reward.  Without them me and my family wouldn’t have what we do today and I wish they could know how grateful I am.   I will never hide my roots, it would be denying their contribution to history.

Running London

15/07/2010 - 3 Responses

I had a ‘big birthday’ approaching and decided to mark it with a series of achievements.  I went to night classes to gain two extra GSCEs, one in maths which I’d failed miserably at school.  I went to a rock concert, I had never been to one having married and had children very young.  And I ran the London Marathon!

I applied and got in through the ballot first time – I didn’t appreciate at the time how “lucky” this was.   I decided I’d better have a bit of a go at running, so decided to run across the park to school  to pick up the children.   After less than a hundred yards I had to stop, breathless with stars in front of my eyes – how on earth could I do 26.2 miles in four months time?

Luckily, a  friend, who had been a football coach, offered to help me train.  The day I ran a whole circuit of the park was cause for celebration – it was all of 1600 metres.  After I had managed to complete 11 circuits of the park John decided I was ready to go on the roads.  He cycled beside me and chatted, telling me stories of his days in football.  Though I wasn’t really interested in football, I didn’t have the breath to tell him! Scouse John, who was quite a bit older than me would also tell me stories from his days in Liverpool, meeting the Beatles and working on cruise ships.  All this kept me going through the ever increasing mileage of the long runs.  In between, we had speed training , hill training and ‘fartleks’ – don’t ask!

Eventually marathon day arrived, John couldn’t come to watch, but my husband and all the children did.  We had to get up at 5.30am in order to get to London in time.  I was dropped off at Greenwich with my kitbag. Out of the early morning mist,  were  hundreds of other runners  coming from different directions all heading to the start.  It felt as if I was going into battle, I didn’t know how long it was going to be till I saw my family again and although I was with thousands of others, I was on my own.

The start area was pungent with the smell of liniment, people were stretching, applying Vaseline to delicate areas and adjusting their fancy dress costumes.  The queues for the portaloos were huge and some (men) obviously counldn’t wait and went behind the trees instead.  Helicopters were circling overhead and through the loudspeakers came the  ‘Chariots of Fire’ music,  my stomach filled with butterflies, this was it, I was in the marathon!

I was at the back of the start and from the time the gun went off till I crossed the start line, almost 15 minutes had passed, and we were still only shuffling along.  We all squashed through the narrow gate out of the park and  onto the roads of Blackheath, which were lined with people.  They were cheering and waving and clapping.  The pace started to get quicker until we were jogging quite comfortably. At three miles, the other start  joined us and there were good humoured ‘boos’ and hisses at the ‘rival’ group.   The atmosphere was fantastic, bands were playing, children handing out sweets and slices of orange to runners.  At about 7 miles we rounded a corner and there was Cutty Sark, I gasped with astonishment at her beauty, I haed only ever seen it on tv before, I had never been so close.  The adrenalin rush kept me going until  Tower Bridge, I had butterflies as I ran across – I was doing it – running London! I waved at all the cameras, I was overtaken by a rhino, a caterpillar and someone dressed as Elvis, but I didn’t care. Once over the bridge, my family were waiting at the side of the road and were cheering me on madly.  I needed that because pretty soon we headed out the the Isle of Dogs, which in those days was pretty grim.  There were buildings on Canary Wharf with windows blown out from an IRA attackl.  There were not as many spectators as the docklands light railway didn’t exist then.  It was bleak , but the runners made their own entertainment, we chatted to each other, sang songs and when were coming off , we knew it wasn’t far to the finish.

We went under Tower Bridge and there was my family again, of course they hadn’t had to cover 10 miles to get there .  This lifted me again,  I was starting to feel tired.  Then the Tower of London’s cobbles beckoned, though they were covered with mats, they were still punishng to already hot, swollen feet.   Now there was only about 4 miles to go.  “You’re nearly there” the spectators were shouting, “You can do it”.  I tried to smile, but it was turning into a grimace.  Big Ben showed the time at 2.45, I couldn’t believe I’d been running so long.The crowds  were now 10 or 12 deep lining the route, the spring sunshine lighting everything up,  Buckingham Palace and the gardens look glorious and as I turned into Birdcage Walk I felt a sense of elation, I knew I was going to finish.  The moment of crossing the line was as happily emotional as giving birth!  Each finisher was  given a medal and congratulated by one of the marshals, I felt as if I’d won an Olympic event.  And just like after having a baby, I said  “Never again!”

I’ve now just applied for my 10th London marathon – can’t wati to run London again.

The Inquisition

03/07/2010 - 5 Responses

Oh no, not the cushions!  Or was it soft cushions?  All those old enough to remember the Monty Python sketch about the Spanish Inguisition will no doubt be quoting it word for word now!  Anyway,  I’ve been tagged ‘for the very first time’  (thanks ‘him up north!) so I’ll just get on with answering the questions.

1. Which (in)famous person (alive or dead) would you like to take out to dinner, where would you go and what would you like to talk about?
This is really difficult, but I think it would have to be Stephen Fry, I would take him to The Lavender House, in Norfolk, he’d love the food. Then I would talk about his love of the area, his passion for music and the experience of tracing his family tree so far back.

2. What is the best gift someone could give you (tangible please)
I would love a horse!  When I was young, I asked for a pony every Christmas and birthdayand every time was disappointed.  I was unaware of how every year my parents tried to think of possible ways of acheivng this, but it was completely out of their reach.  I had lessons, they bought me the kit, I read about ponies, drew ponies and wrote stories about them.  It is many years since I have been riding seriously, but it is still my ultimate dream to own a horse.

3. Where in the world would you most like to live?
I have always felt an affinity with the Yorkshire moors and Cornwall,  There is someting about the moors, the bleak yet romantic landscape ( though that could owe a lot to Wuthering Heights!)  Yet Cornwall, though it has Bodmin Moor, also has more beaches and coves and I would love to live by the sea, so I think Cornwall wins this one.

4. What do you most enjoy cooking?
I LOVE cooking anything and everything!  I even managed to get on Masterchef, but got knocked out in the first round as I was SO nervous.  I loved helping with cookery club at school and find it exciting getting childlren interested in ‘proper’ food.  Not organic, or fancy, just making sinple, straightforward stuff that they want to eat.

5. What is your favourite novel?
Well the first novel I read on my own was Black Beauty – I was about seven. Iit was borrowed from a neighbour and wrapped in paper as it was a prized possession.  There were no illustrations, but I loved it, perhaps this is where my love of horses began?!   My favourite novel that I have recently read has to be ‘Cloud Atlas’, it was not a book I would have chosen myself, but it was featured on a book club review and I’m so glad I tried it – it was fantastic.

6. You have your own personal Tardis, where do you go first?
I would llike to go back to my wedding day.  My dad was so nervous about doing his speech and  I wish that during it I’d reached out and held his hand. He died suddenly a few years later aged 48 .

7. How old is the inner you?
The inner me is about 14.  I never wanted to grow up and have to learn all those boring things that grown ups have to do, and I don’t like doing them now. I try and keep as physically young as I can through exercise and keeping in touch with the children.  However, I can feel myself turning into a ‘grumpy old woman’ and coming out with comments that make me cringe.  Still as they say it’s better than the alernative!

8. Theatre or Cinema?
Don’t go much to either. I think in the last 30 years I’ve been about a dozen times to each – and that includes pantomimes! It was difficult to get a babvsitter for four children, and expensive, then on top of the the cost of the thatre or cinema.  (They don’t have either where we live and it would entail a costly trip and possibly overnight stay in London). The last thing we went to was ‘We Will Rock You’ at the theatre and it was great, though that was over a year ago.  We WILL go more often!

9. Would you be famous, with all that means?
If I became famous because of some skill, or gift, that was helpful to others, then I might.  But the chances of that, especially at my age – are pretty dim! Although I did go on Masterchef, it wasn’t to ‘be famous’ I hated that it was on tv, I wanted the competition.  I would never want to be known for going on ‘reality tv’,  isn’t that a contradiction in terms?

10. You are able to learn anything at all, a skill, a language, whatever, what would it be and why?
I would love to be able to sing, or play a musical instrument really well, or even at all!  Or for painting or writing to just flow effortlessly out of me – I suppose I’d better get practising then.

And now for my five ‘victims’ if you’ve done this one before just ignore it!

Victoria at http://www.itsasmallworldafterallfamily.wordpress.com

Clare at   http://clareybabble.blogspot.com

http://yummymummyno1.wordpress.com

  Emily at http://www.pantswithnames.com

Rachael at www.marathonmummy.com

Viva Espana!

01/07/2010 - 7 Responses

It was 1967 and Sandie Shaw had just won the Eurovision Song Contest with Pupper on a String.  The other big event for me that year was going ‘abroad’ for the first time.  My Dad had taken out a bank loan to pay for our family of five to go on a package holiday.  I can still remember that it cost £32 per person, all meals included!  My mum spent weeks saving up to buy holiday clothes for us, things that could only be tried on and then put away until the great event.  Passports were applied for and us children were added on to them – in those days you didn’t need your own.  Tickets were posted out the the travel agents (remember then?!) and duly had to be collected and kept safe.

Eventually the day of departure arrived, well actually the day before the flight!  My dad was wearing a suit my mum, sister and me all wore new summer dresses and cardigans and my little brother had short trousers and a shirt.  You didn’t travel casually in those days, it was a hugely important event and one to get dressed up for.  We were the first family in our cul-de-sac to take on such a daring,  or foolish, expedition.

We walked to our local raillway station, Dad carrying the heaviest case, Mum with a smaller one.  It was late afternoon and warm.  I remember my dad looking hot in his shirt and tie, waiting to catch the train to Crewe.  After the short journey to Crewe we found the train to London Euston, Dad catching his jacket on the door handle and ripping it in the process.   We then had to endure what seemed like hours of sitting on itchy seats, sucking barley sugars until we arrived. Then it was a taxi to Victoria coach station, from where we would travel to Manston in Kent to catch our flight.  This was the first time we had travelled by any of these means,  we had never even been to London before, it was all lnew and strange and the plane at the end was just the icing on the cake.

We boarded the plane and on looking out of the window, noticed, much to my mum’s consternation, that the wings were made up of lots of little square of metal riveted together.  She was convinced that the plane would have been moulded from one smooth piece of metal!  I thought it was magical, we landed at dawn, the sky still pink at the edges but already I could fee the promise of heat to come and it smelled foreign too.

I had enjoyed the meal on the plane, it felt so grown up to have a tray of little packets and dishes just for me and not to have to give any to my younger sister and brother.  The food in the small hotel in Blanes was interesting too. I can remember the first breakfast, there were huge brown glass cups of milky coffee, crusty rolls and  peach jam, no butter (I could see my mother making a mental note to pack tea and butter for next time)  I loved it, the jam soft and sweet and  tasted of musky sunshine, and even though you can now get it here, it ‘s not the same. My brother, being only 6, wanted what he was used to at home. Have you ever tried to mime ‘cornflakes’?!  Eventually a packet was produced, along with a jug of milk and a plate.  The staff gathered round to witness this breakfast phenomenon and gasped as they were sprinkled onto the plate and then had milk poured over them. They had obviously put some thought into the evening meal, each night was a dish  from a different cuisne, intending, I suppose to cater for the different nationalities there. I don’t recall every one, but one night we we re served with a plate of plain spaghetti and a separate bowl of thin, tomato flavoured water –  Italian evening! Paella was on the menu one night, yellow and garlicky and laced with oil. But the highlight of the week was when they did ‘English’ food.  As the plates were brought out, a buzz went round the dining room, what was it going to be?  Then the serving platters arrived  and a huge cheer went up from the British contingent – EGG & CHIPS!! It was the first time that week that most of them recognised what they were eating.  Though they  had been fried in olive oil and tasted completely different, it was still egg and chips!

Of course we didn’t speak a word of Spanish, no-one did in those days (well the Spaish people did obviously!)  so miming, accompanied by talking VERY LOUDLY, was the order of the day.  Fortunately for us children it didn’t matter much.  We just played  and taught each other how to count up to ten and everyone knew the words to ‘Puppet on a String’!

Other memories of that holiday for me, going to a bullfight and sitting baking in the afteroon heat, watching the gaudy, macbre procedure .The black bull becoming redder & stickier with blood, until, almost too weak to stand, was finally put out of his misery. Then, still twitching,  and minus its ears and tail was dragged round by horses, the dust and sand now coating the bloody wounds.  Drinking ice cold Coca Cola and Pepsi for the first time, its sharp, caramelly fizz tickling my tongue.  A Dutch couple throwing sweets into our balcony from theirs.  Going to a shop to  and buy some cotton to mend my dad’s suit jacket. The old lady, dressed  in traditional black, didn’t have any in that colour, so she took us through her shop and kitchen, across an alleyway to a neighbour who did.

And then there was the group of four ‘lads’  the leader nicknamed  Romeo. They never came on any of the organised day trips, preferring to sleep all day, having been out all night,  and went home as white as when they arrived – some things don’t changed do they?!

Average

22/06/2010 - 4 Responses

I wish I had a gift.  You know like those people who can paint, sing, play beautiful music or even do the splits.  I’d just like to have one thing I could do better than anyone else.  I suppose the people that go on the X Factor, or BGT think they have a special something – even if it’s only knitting.  I can’t think of anything I could say was a unique skill.

I am just average.  I loved art at school, I really enjoyed it and thought I was quite good, my paintings got put up on the wall at primary school. When I went to senior school there were loads of girls who were far better at it than me, who were really gifted at it. I just managed an average ‘O’ level.  Even though I went to grammar school, I just scraped through and so always felt I had to try and keep up with those who had passed their 11+ with flying colours. 

I loved writing and spent hours as a child writing and illustrating my own ‘books’. Then as an adult writing short stories and articles and papering the downstairs loo with the resulting rejection slips.

Another of the things I like to do is cooking, I’ve catered for events for friends and family and even our town’s mayor making ceremony and I’ve made birthday cakes for lots of people.  Then I look at other peoples’ that they post on their blogs and mine look pathetic.

Perhaps I would have had a gift for skiing, if I’d had the opportunity to do it as a child?  I thought I might have been a gifted rider, enjoying my weekly hour at the local riding stables, but my parents couldn’t afford to buy me a pony so I never really got the chance. I could have been a good actress, I loved being in plays and joined our local amateur dramatic and operatic groups, but there were no local drama schools near us and there was no way Mum & Dad could send me away to one.

This is why I think it’s so important to give our children as many opportunities as we can and encourage them where they show any skill or aptitude at something.  Too often though, it comes down to cost. When you have four children, there is a limit on your finances, as well as time, to let them all try something that they decide they hate after two weeks, or  after you’ve just bought the necessary kit.

I am very good at remembering phone numbers, I know all the ones we’ve ever had as well as all those of friends and family.  I don’t need them stored in the phone.  I can also recite all the registration plates of the cars we had , both my dad’s when I was a child and my husband’s since I got married. 

Even now, I still know all the words to songs that I sang at school including; “There was a man who had a wife, nickety nackety noo, noo, noo, She couldna’ bake and she couldna’ brew, nickety nackety noo, noo, noo!”   Perhaps that is my ‘gift’?!

Time

10/06/2010 - 6 Responses

I used to think of ‘time’ as a line with no particular beginning and stretching far away into the distance before disappearing into  misty clouds.  In my mind the days were marked with notches, Saturday and Sunday being taller notches, as there was no school on those days and more possibility for adventures. At weekends and during the school holidays we would leave the house early in the morning and not get back till tea time.  We made dens and paddled or swam in the river, we walked with the dogs just to see how far we could get in a day, sometimes experiencing the wrath of farmers whose fields we were crossing. 

Time seemed to be endless, waiting for Christmas or birthdays felt like an eternity, but as the only treats or presents we got were on these occasions, the anticipation made up for it.  Although I enjoyed school, sometimes waiting for the bell to ring during double maths or biology felt as if time had stood still.  Looking at my watch every minute willing it to be home time.

With all my pregnancies, time seemd to drag interminably, I couldn’t wait for the baby to be born. The due date would arrive and pass and each day after seemed as long as the previous nine months, ending up with being induced.  Next time, I would promise myself, I’ll wait for the baby to arrive naturally, but by 40 weeks I was climbing the walls.  Each day not knowing if this would be the day, was driving me mad and restless.

Once they were born I was impatient for them to achieve those milestones that we are led to believe are so important – especially with the first.  Would they ever talk, walk, sleep!  I was fuzzy with exhaustion and the days seemed even longer. Would tonight be the night I got more than 3 hours unbroken sleep? 

I couldn’t wait for them to be old enough to go to playgroup, so I could have some peace and quiet for a couple of hours.  I was keen for them to start school so I could have time for myself instead of endless repetetive games and reading and re-reading the same stories.

Time shuffled on then all at once the last child was 18, how did that happen? She moved out, following her three older brothers.  The nest was empty and the house quiet.  Now I have all the hours I want to myself, time is looming large and empty, weekends and weekdays are all the same and time is dragging again.  This time I know I should make the most of it, because before you know it, it’s gone altogether.

I wrote this for http://www.sleepisfortheweak.org.uk/2010/06/10/writing-workshop-lost-art/?utm_source=twitter

Mother in law

07/06/2010 - 9 Responses

Before I start, I would just like to say this is no criticism of my daughters in law, but a reflection on my behaviour with my own.  Of course I haven’t got a son-in-law yet, which must surely be the ultimate mother-in-law music hall joke!

It’s a fine line to tread, being a mother in law.  For one thing you become the butt of all those stereotypical jokes and you desperately don’t want to turn into that. But it’s not until you actually become one yourself that you know this.  I suddenly realised that all the times I’d moaned to my own mother-in-law about my husband, she must have really had to bite her tongue.  I was criticising her son, and in turn her. 

I have two daughters- in-law so far, and while they are far too well mannered to complain, obviously they have occasional niggles.  We joke about how their husbands have selective hearing, how they need to smarten up, drive too fast etc.  Then I think, hang on, this is my son you’re talking about, is it my fault?  Should I have done something more when they were younger? 

And then with a sinking feeling I remember all the whingeing I have done to my mother-in-law, telling her that her only son doesn’t help enough round the house, doesn’t take me out, never got up in the night with any of our four children, rarely made it to nativity plays, sport days or parents’ evenings.  I could cringe now thinking how she must have felt. 

This was her blue-eyed boy, the first born, the son she’d read stories to and bathed and played with and made her laugh.  The precious first grandson for her parents, the child they’d all been waiting for. And all I could do was moan that he never made the bed or wiped round the sink. 

Here was the boy that had passed his 11+, been the first in the family to go to university and held down a demanding job and I complained that he was never home.

Here was the man who supported me doing voluntary charity work while I sulked about not being able to afford to go out more. I’m sure my mother in law, like I am with my sons, is only too aware of their shortcomings and to have them pointed out is unnecessary.  After all it’s because of their mothers (and fathers) that they are who they are, and why we married them in the first place.  And they did choose beautiful, funny, clever and kind women as their wives!

What’s in a name?

24/05/2010 - 7 Responses

It’s not really until your children have their own children that this becomes  an issue.  Until then you’ve just been ‘Mummy’, or ‘Mum’, when they’re older. Occasionally ‘Mother!’ when they’re feeling frustrated with you and sometimes ‘Ma’ when they’re being patronising.

Not long after the announcement that our eldest son’s wife was expecting our first grandchild came the question, ‘what are you going to be called?’ Gran, Granny, Grandma, Nanny?  None of them seemed appealling, all conjured up pictures of little old ladies in cardigans with glasses and a bun! We all know that grandmothers aren’t like that any more don’t we?  Take me, I run marathons, take part in cycling challenges, do the  decorating, gardening, voluntary work… I don’t have time to sit and knit.  And although I cook and bake, I like to think I’m more Nigella than Mrs Overall!

So to alternatives, what about ‘Nonna’?  A bit more romantic sounding in a foreign language, or as my husband is Welsh, what about ‘Mamgu’ for me and ‘Dadcu’ for him? Or ‘Yaya’ which is Greek, I don’t fancy ‘Gamma’, ‘Mom mom’ or ‘Gangan’ either.  The problem was compounded by the fact there were 4 great grandparents too, so we needed names for them as well.  I didn’t want to claim the ‘Glam-ma’ title, as used by Joan Collins and stolen by L’Oreal and Jane Fonda for their latest ad, it seemed a bit too pretentious for me.  I did toy with ‘GrandShar’ but in the end it will probably be what the children call us when they can talk.  My mother in law is called ‘Mussey’ by most of her grandchildren as the eldest couldn’t pronounce ‘Grandma’ and all the rest followed suit.  It seems as if it really is out of the mouths of babes!

My Moonwalk

17/05/2010 - 5 Responses

So, the training, such as it was, had finished and the day of the Moonwalk had arrived.  I had done a 6 mile run first thing to warm up.  At around 5.00pm I went to try on my decorated bra, complete with feathers and fairy lights and fringing, all painstakingly sewn on by hand the day before. I couldn’t fasten it, Ichecked the size, I stretched and pulled it, I had stitched the lights on too tightly!  It had taken me about two hours and I thought I’d been SO careful and there was no time to unpick it all.  After some more stretching , panicking and tactical snipping, I eventually managed to get it to fit and we left home and headed for ‘Playtex City’.  

The vast pink tent was in a corner of Hyde Park and I made my way towards it,  the nearer I got the more I could feel the excitement. Women, and a few men,  of all ages and sizes in their decorated bras, feathers, fringes, coloured wigs, netting, glitter and fairy lights, were pouring into the park, from all directions. In the gathering dusk,  groups of people were picnicking on the rice or pasta meal provided, sitting on the reflective space blankets. Others were chatting, or texting frantically to try and meet up with their friends. There were screeches and giggles from those who suceeding in finding their walking buddies. The music throbbing  from the tent enticed some inside to listen to live acts and take part in a mass warm up session.

Deciding I didn’t neet to do aerobics, after my own morning warm up I went to look at the various stalls outside and chose a pink balloon to attach the strap of my bumbag.  Feeling  cheerful with my perky pink balloon bobbing aloft, I  joined the queue for the portaloos.  There are always long queues for these, but eventually my turn came around.  Closing the door I went to sit down and couldn’t, something was stopping me.   Then I realised that my balloon was trapped outside!  The only solution was to try to slide  the string down  the crack of the door, I could hear the laughter from outside as the pink balloon inched its way down until I had enough play on the string to lower myself onto the loo.  At least they had no doubt that it was engaged!

I had arranged to meet some of my Twitter friends for the event and I found them  inside the tent, after introductions and a few photos  there was a poignant silence to remind everyone just why we were taking part in this event. We made our way to the start and set off at 11.40 full of enthusiasm.  The night seemed to fly by, we were setting a good pace, there was always something to look at and someone to talk to.  The marshals were amazing, out all night cheering us on, escorting us across roads and encouraging us.  We passed lots of  London’s landmarks, The Royal Albert Hall, Westminster Abbey, the Eye and Big Ben, as well as dimly lit,  less salubrious areas.  If you want to know the exact route it is probably still lined with feathers, glitter and tinsel that fell off  the fancy bras.

 The cars and traffic hardly seemed to ease off all night and there was nearly always a bemused passerby (not all the worse for drink) wondering what all these bra-clad women, complete with fairy lights, were doing walking the streets at night.  Indeed, one girl shouted “what ARE you doin’?”   She could have been forgiven for thinking that we were off to an enormous hen party.

At 4.00pm the birds began singing, the sky gradually started to lighten and the air became slightly warmer, we were half way round.  The mood started to change, people who had become quiet started chatting again, it was all ‘downhill’  from here on, every step taking us nearer to the finish.

Approaching Hyde Park for the final stretch, the sun was shining, we donned our sunglasses and removed our jackets.   The pink tent glowed in the morning light and an arch of pink balloons, marking the finish, bobbed about in the breeze. It had taken us about eight hours to complete, which included a 40 minute loo stop at a firestation!  We hadn’t seen any of the ‘celebrity’ participants or famous faces at the start or during the walk, but it didn’t matter.  We had finished,  and, along with the thousands of others who did it too, we felt like celebrities, and for a few hours  at least, we were.