My Fringe Does Not Look Like Other People’s Fringes

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middle-right taken this morning, for context

Because I went for a half-fringe first and my hair got confused

Because I have naturally fluffy hair (I will not dignify it with the classification ‘wavy’ or ‘curly’, because it is neither) and cutting fluff into shorter fluff above one’s face is not, objectively, a good idea

Because I wrestle it into submission using scalding-hot air every morning and people/fringes just can’t be kept in chains

Because I forgot to offer the correct blood sacrifice that first time at the hairdressers

Because walking in a light breeze makes it rise up and then up again, parting down the middle and floating proudly down the sides of my head like the waves parting before a noble ship at sea. And I spend a lot of time in, at minimum, light breezes

Because my eyebrows are so luxuriantly untamed they keep giving the fringe static shocks, so now they just avoid each other out of awkwardness

Because I refused to hand over my first-born to the witch who asked, so she wouldn’t teach me about fringe-lore

Because I wake up every morning looking like my forehead vomited in the night

Because I went on holiday just after having it done for the first time and it was absolutely perfect every day, and after this I displeased the gods on Mount Olympus

Because aliens

Because I have a cow-lick. At the front. Did I mention that?

My walls, my rules (+ art print GIVEAWAY!)

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You will never find me on a home improvement blog. I have no colour sense, and no idea how to ‘style’ corners (whatever that means). But you will have to prise my wall art out of my cold, dead fingers.

Everything on our walls is meaningful to us, and it makes even our sad old magnolia paint – of which there is rather a lot – feel cosier. Our living room doesn’t ever get much light thanks to the row of oak trees just outside, so we’ve filled the room with soft greys, old wooden furniture, far too many blankets, and a jewel-coloured Van Gogh. When I saw that Van Gogh in the flesh, in a museum in Paris, on one of the best trips we’ve ever taken together, I cried. I think about that every time I see it.

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Then there’s the couple of old maps reminding us of places we’ve been and would like to go; a fantastic Sherlock portrait that induces a pleasant Benedict Cumberbatch meditation every time I sneak over to turn up the thermostat; a David Hockney I carried back from the Tate Modern for our downstairs loo (The Splash: something that often, regrettably, happens in there); the mother-and-baby painting that used to sit in our dining room when I was a child and reminds me now of all the mothers who’ve made me; and of course the ‘Courage, dear heart’ print hanging over our bed. I need to read that one about twelve times a day.

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None of it’s particularly styled. But it all means something, and I love that. It makes me feel at home.

SO. Imagine how delighted I was when my sister-in-law Bryony Dick got in touch to say she’d hand-lettered a quote from this very blog. Something…I wrote…up there…on a wall…*hyperventilating*. You can find Bryony’s Etsy shop here – including a limited run of this hand-lettered print – but I have one RIGHT HERE to give away to one of you lovely lot! All you have to do is enter below, using your Facebook account or your email. I hope it might make you feel like all of your days have the potential for something marvellous.

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(Bryony also has a Zazzle shop, in which my absolute favourite has to be the Wives of Henry VIII badges. What a PERFECT OPENING to explain to a hapless stranger why Anne of Cleves is my all-time fave.)

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Seven little things that have made my life better in 2016

 

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I’ve been spending my nights mostly not asleep this week. I’ve had a couple of imagine-all-the-horrible-ways-you-could-lose-your-children sessions (MOTHERHOOD, THE BEST) and then last night, somewhat more prosaically, I spent hours seized up with fear about not having put the bin out.

I dunno what’s causing it. It’s new to me. Brains are great, sometimes.

Anyway, today – having woken up too early, too tired, too cross over nothing – I have been practising self-care. I went for a run this morning, though I hate it as much as I ever did, because even I know that endorphins are a thing. Then a hot shower. Then clothes as close to pyjamas as I could wangle. Then I put on makeup carefully and with both hands while T watched Cars. Then Heinz tomato soup and a buttered crumpet. Then I took the damn nap.

This evening I feel a little more like myself, thanks to all those little things. So in that spirit, I thought of seven other little things that have been making my life better so far this year, and wrote them down. None of them are putting the bin out on time, though I managed that too, eventually.

 

1. A laundry basket with two compartments, no, seriously:

We saw this little beauty in TK Maxx on a day in which we were decidedly not in the market for items larger than our youngest child – we’d come on the train; we were about to head off for a cheeky Nando’s – but we couldn’t say no to this. A laundry bin with two compartments is essentially self-sorting, and you don’t even need a robot. Do you know how much time I save not tossing urine-sodden underpants and ancient sweaty lycra into white and dark piles? I could eat a bacon sandwich in that time. And I have.

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2. Not weighing myself anymore:

At certain times in my life this pestilential thing has been necessary – when I had weight to lose, for example, and needed to track it. Other than that, though: why. Ever. Why. I have spent so many years tailoring my feelings to that unfeeling box on the ground. Weight fluctuates daily for many reasons: how much water you’ve drunk; what kind of exercise you do; the details of your loo expeditions; if your hormones are up, down or have run off to sea. Your body changes as you do, because you are mysterious and expansive and full of hidden depths. If you’re making effort to treat it well, why bother sticking it on a scale like a slab of meat? I have decided to end the tyranny of the weight box, and I LOVE it.

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3. Housework + audiobooks:

Imagine being in the bottom half of a giant egg-timer, like Jasmine at the end of Aladdin, only instead of sand tumbling ceaselessly onto your head, it’s toys. And dirty plates. And biscuit crumbs. That’s basically what it’s like keeping house with small children. Now imagine if you did all your washing up with Stephen Fry sat on the counter, talking to you about Harry Potter. Much better, eh? I never do any housework without an audiobook. The HP cycle is my old reliable, though it’s a bit disconcerting when I go straight from the end of Book 7 to the beginning of Book 1, and shriek HARRY YOU ARE MARKED FOR SLAUGHTER STOP WORRYING ABOUT HOMEWORK in the middle of the laundry. I have a couple of my favourite novels on audio too; and the BBC Radio app, especially the drama section, especially during Agatha Christie season (!!!), is a cave of wonders.

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4. A proper weekly planner app:

Do you know how long I have been searching for a week-to-view planner app? My whole life. I just want to know whether to schedule something for Monday or Thursday without having to flick through seven screens. It’s not like it’s the holy grail. Finally, this month I found one. It’s called Weekly Planner, helpfully, so perhaps I just wasn’t looking hard enough. Guys. My productivity has been OFF THE CHARTS. I also use a thumbs up emoji to tick stuff off, so it’s like a Roman Emperor decided to let me live because of my unstoppable efficiency, ten times a day.

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5. A store-cupboard, thirty-minute crumble recipe:

Sometimes you need crumble and custard very much indeed, but you don’t have crumble topping, or enough apples, or the time and leisure to take the skin off your knuckles coring them. This is a problem I have frequently, and never more so than in January. Recently I hit on the idea of tinned fruit crumble, because it takes no time at all to cook and you can keep in the ingredients for emergencies. You can have it on the table half an hour after your initial hankering if you have a food mixer, I kid ye not. Here you go:

  • put one tin each of peaches, pears and mangoes into a dish
  • whizz up 150g flour, 50g sugar and 100g cold butter in a food mixer/processor (or your hands are fine; it just takes a bit longer)
  • put crumble mixture over fruit in dish
  • bake for 20 mins in a hot oven (220 ish)

I hope you always use twice as much custard as crumble, because this is the route to happiness.

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6. The 10pm alarm clock:

Let me say for the sake of honesty that I am awful at this one, but when I do it I feel so much better. I am a terrible, terrible fiddler in the evenings, and can spend literally hours soaking in the experience of looking at Twitter without being jumped on. But late nights make me feel gross in the morning, and not taking the time to wind down properly also takes its toll. So I have a recurring 10pm alarm, with the idea that when it goes off, I stop whatever I’m doing and go upstairs. I can have my own bedtime routine for half an hour, and then go to sleep at a decent time, properly switched off. It’s a blooming miracle.

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7. Trying to get better at things:

You know what always makes me feel more satisfied, more hopeful? No, not Netflix (YES NETFLIX). Making progress. Some kind of progress, in something. Much of the labour I perform is manual, repetitive, quickly undone, and though I know it’s not, it can feel pointless and stagnating. I need to feel like I’m making progress. Last year I tried hard to read more and to let the boys see me reading – both for my own enjoyment/sanity, and so I could show them that reading is a thing I do for pleasure. This year I want to carry on with that, and I’ve started baking new things more regularly, and trying to practice the piano a little more. By which I mean, a little more than the none I was doing before. It’s totally doable.

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What are your little sanity-savers so far this year?

 

Two time-stoppers

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I am walking to school. Pushing the pushchair with two hefty toddlers in it, wellies mud-streaked, balancing H’s scooter over the top with a spare finger, sweaty enough to make me feel like this is exercise. It’s one of my favourite things to do. The light is grey as steel, but the woods look good in anything.

I look up, and there’s a kite balancing on the topmost branch of the nearest tree. A kite, or a hawk? I never know. I wish I did. We see them quite often, wheeling far overhead, but I’ve never seen one perched before. This one sways gently on its spindly seat. So much bigger than I expected. A muscled, burly chest, layered with feathers. I’m overwhelmed by how solid it is, how heavy and powerful it looks, how its stillness communicates itself as terrifying, ferocious observation. I wouldn’t like to be a sparrow in the field below and feel that glare on my back.

I stop the pushchair and point up. ‘Look, can you see the bird?’ I want them to see it too, and I don’t want to move before it does. Then I don’t have to: it lets out a pure, cold, bird-of-prey cry, the kind I’ve heard on documentaries but never in front of me, never slicing through the air on top of my head, and peels off. Wings open smoothly as it falls and then it’s not falling anymore, but flying. It must have seen a sparrow.

I let out my breath, and push on.

 

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I have heaved all three of our shopping bags in from the car, and closed all the doors. It’s our doing-things day, the one where I wheedle T around two supermarkets and clean up the house after the weekend. I love restocking our empty fridge and cupboards, cramming the shelves with a week of fresh food. Planning and making our meals answers one of my deepest, most basic needs as a mother: I can feed them good things, I can keep them well, I can keep them loved. I think about this every Monday, stuffing onions into the fridge drawer.

‘Put music on?’ T asks.

‘Of course’, I say. ‘What would you like?’

I don’t really expect him to answer, but he screws up tiny nose and does: ‘Um…Starman’.

We’ve been hitting the Bowie back catalogue hard since he passed away. I suppose you pore over someone’s genius more when you know there’s no more to come. The boys are old enough to recognise them this time around. They love them, though they’re not as fierce about Life on Mars as I am.

I crank up the volume and the slightly discordant guitar riff jangles through the kitchen, then Bowie comes in for the first verse, that hard, spare voice lingering over the repeated ‘oh-oh-ohs’. T starts to dance, all shoulders and lunges. I join in, swirling my coat around us like a cloak. He grabs my hand and I spin us both round in lazy circles on the kitchen floor, waiting for the moment where the chorus kicks in with a rush and an octave leap.

I know this is something I’ll remember years later: this minute, this chubby hand and leaping toddler and soft late-morning light and Bowie loud in the air. I can feel it solidifying into memory in front of me, like our edges are turning sepia before we’re quite done with them. Possibly I’ll never listen to Starman again without being transported right back here. Swishing coat. Hand in the air. T’s laughter. And here comes the chorus: Star-maaaaaan, waiting in the sky.

He laughs. I laugh. I get out bread, grapes, cheese, and make us some lunch.

To three or not to three?

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That is the question.

I do not know whether I will post this, or keep it up for long. It feels a bit personal, and also a bit obnoxious. But whenever I can’t bring myself to write a lifeless piece for the sake of writing one, I ask myself: what are you thinking about most right now? Write about that.

What am I thinking about most right now? Whether we need any more children.

Or do I mean ‘want’? That’s the issue, isn’t it? Do we want more? Do we need more? The answers might not be the same. The fact that the answer to the question ‘Can we have more?’ is almost certainly ‘yes’ puts us in a position of impossible privilege from the start. Even having this conversation fills me with guilt. It is more trivial, heartbreakingly so, than lots of other conversations women are forced to have about family planning.

What this is really about is the fear of missed opportunity, of making a decision that I might regret and cannot be reversed. That’s not the case with many choices in life, I think. You can retrain in the field you always wanted, change jobs, move house, end toxic relationships and find new ones. The possibility is there, even if it takes time and emotional resources. But you can’t get much past forty-five and decide you wanted more children after all, because the ole uterus has already shut up shop. Is there a comparable point-of-no-return decision for men? I’m not sure there is.

What a needle-sharp pressure that is for women. Tick-tock, goes the clock. Do you want children? Are you in a position to have them? Would you rather not? Either way, judgement. Either way, the clock ticks.

I had always envisioned having a big family. I’m from a tight-knit foursome and Tim is one of five. As it turns out, imagining possible future children is not the same as growing and birthing them. That stuff is hard. Having two children close together, though it was a deliberate choice, is hard too. We are only juuuuust getting to a stage where the boys play together, and one of them can be trusted most of the time not to do things that endanger his life. Most of the time. If that doesn’t seem like much of a gain, trust me: it’s huge.

In lots of ways this is a lovely phase. They still think I’m the coolest, but I’m not running between them like a rabid monkey so often. They have personalities, tiny obsessions, speech. Watching them learn things and interact with each other is out-and-out delight. My very favourite part of the day is when we roll in from school, I make them a drink and a snack, and we sit at the table and talk. It’s the sort of enjoyment I could not have imagined back in the days of newborn+toddler, where they never left me for a moment and where I would cry from exhaustion that felt like it could never be fixed.

They’re still hard work (they are four and two, after all). But we’re climbing out of chaos for the first time in some years, and part of me is not over-anxious to leap back in there. Google ‘three kids are the most stressful’ and you’ll get pages of articles including sentences like ‘Some days I really wonder if I’ve lost my mind’, and ‘everything was turned upside down’ and ‘I do not feel like I have it all together’. A proper confidence boost.

Then there’s the fact that I have my body to myself now. No sickness, no womb occupation, no saggy sore postpartum body, no weeping over the pain and stress and failure of breastfeeding: I am only myself now, with kids. I am enjoying that too.

And yet. And yet. And yet times one million.

And yet, I can’t shake the feeling that we’re a person down. And yet, the dynamics of a big family feel the most natural to me – I can’t fathom what my life would be like minus two brothers, for example. And yet, looking at babies is starting to make me hurt. And yet I imagine myself, one day, realising that I did want more, need more, could have had more, and I left it too late out of fear.

What I want, deep down, is for the good stuff never to change. I can’t bear to think of the small happinesses of today moving on when the boys do. But of course they will, whether or not I want them to. So I suppose the direction we go is up to us.

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Just take the damn nap

My littlest goes to sleep with a fluffy cat and dog, one under each arm. And his Own Thomas train (I still don’t know which one this is), and a rubber killer whale, and usually a giant plastic crane, which he talks to for forty minutes before dropping off.

I don’t need such elaborate sleeping rituals. Over the last few weeks, whenever I’ve been home and free during his naptime, I’ve just crawled under a duvet and got my head down. All the way down. Sometimes with my boots still on. Always with a sense of righteous glee.

I haven’t had opportunity for daytime naps since T arrived and H stopped taking them. It’s been a long dry spell. And I used to avoid them out of guilt, mostly because I kept comparing my day to Tim’s. He doesn’t get a brief kip after his lunch (or does he? I used to schedule a sleep on the library desk at college. Set an alarm and everything). He’s not hiding in the kitchen with a sneaky brownie because his toddler won’t stop asking him to press the same two buttons over and over. He’s working hard, earning money. Cycling ludicrous distances. Generally acting like Superman, or at least a decent grown-up.

At some point I realised that was a bagful o’ nonsense. My day is hard. Do you know how much naked charisma I need to get two small children through a brief supermarket trip without either of them wandering off or breaking down? More than I’ve naturally got, I can tell you. It takes intense effort; every last cell of me focussed on distraction techniques, danger signs and Mary Poppins voices.

Yesterday afternoon, after I’d picked up H from school, taken them both to Sainsbury’s with T wailing in the back, got them out of the car and into the trolley, bought precisely two items, strapped them both back in the car, opened their bananas, driven all the way back home, got them back out of the car again, emptied the car of our assembled rubbish including discarded banana pieces, shooed them back in the house and taken off shoes and coats, I tried to set the dishwasher going and it broke. I attempted to google the error code, praying it wasn’t something expensive. Meanwhile, H was having an intense personal meltdown, because the brownie I’d started to make wasn’t for him.

My every minute is like that. Every single minute, except for that MAYBE hour and a half where T naps after lunch. Yours is too, I bet, or something similar. Honestly, why would you not get extra sleep if you possibly could? Your kid could stop napping ANY DAY NOW.

In September mine will be in nursery for five half-days a week, and though I think I’ll be getting more done when the day’s bisected by four school runs instead of two, HA HA HA is how that’s going to turn out.

In ten years’ time I’ll be back in an office, probably, watching some guy across the way eat his cheese and pickle sandwich and dribble bits onto his keyboard, and I’ll pretend to be enjoying a rice cake and dump seven sugars in my cheap hot chocolate and wish to high heaven that I could put my head down for ten lousy minutes.

Will you regret, even for a second, taking those daytime naps while you had them? I will not regret it for a second.

Not a second.

If there’s a brief, shining interlude in your life where you’re alone enough to lie down under a duvet with your boots on, luxuriate in your excellent fortune and take it. TAKE IT.

Just take the damn nap.

Just so not sorry

Just so not sorry

What January has to say for itself

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Hello lovers. Let’s go rambling.

I make a point of not getting on with anything until T falls asleep. At the moment that means I slump over Twitter exhaustedly and with shoes on, for nearly an hour. He got used to Audible Fun Stuff going on after his bedtime over Christmas, so he likes to have a little cot-potter after lights-out. Just in case someone’s going to come and get him. He’s just given in, so I’ve taken off my boots, and am (Hades voice) ready to rumbllllllle. (H is sparko five minutes after I leave, of course. School.)

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We are back in a routine after a week of inevitable new-term sick bug. Last week we didn’t shift very far away from Netflix or pyjamas, and ran out of Calpol, and didn’t leave the house more than once for five days. That sort of week is rather nice for a day or so, then forms a very short runway to insanity thereafter. I know the theme song to our newest Thomas film now. KIDDING I KNEW IT ALREADY.

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Getting back to normal has made what was a pretty dreary January into something quite bracing and lovely. We walked back from school the long way yesterday afternoon. Watching them call for the Gruffalo in the middle of the woods and get comically stuck in mud-swamps made my head feel like it was opening up again at last. It’s very cold, bright and frost-glittered. Good skies. Indoors, I am making big lasagnes, shepherd’s pies, vats of enchiladas – and engaging in a running battle with Timothy where we turn the radiators on/off without the other one knowing.

We are keeping the kettle almost constantly boiling, and our favourite is mixing two spoons of hot chocolate with two spoons of Horlicks. If I tell you we call it a Choco-(W)Hor(e), will you think less of us?

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T feels very two this month. One blimming up and down after another. Stubborn. Delightful. Hideous. Hilarious. Beginning every other sentence with ‘I don’ WANT to’. Making his toys talk to each other. This afternoon he came to insist that he had a ‘twiceratops stuck down here’ (gestures at groin area). The only triceratops I know about is the size of Teddy’s head, but I brushed my hand down his front anyway. Nothing. I told him to go and play. About half an hour later I changed his nappy and, sure enough: a small plastic triceratops, embedded in his squishy toddler belly. Who knows how it got there. The triceratops is too shell-shocked to say. Never doubt the two-year-old, is the lesson from that.

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Oh, but you can give me a million years of four and I will take them off your hands. Four is the best. Four is your reward for getting through three without running away to sea to be a ship’s monkey. This evening H had to work through the letter B. He produced a whole row of them, pencil held carefully in his left hand, then wrote ‘Boo’. I told him about exclamation marks, and he drew one in precisely at the end, then put another one at the beginning too (!Boo!) ‘so it’s even more shouting!’ He laughed at the triceratops thing harder than I did, and ate all his lasagne. Four forever pls.

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I’ve just finished A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson, which is the companion piece to Life After Life, the book I love so much I keep it in my glove compartment for emergencies. The sequel made me feel so much some of my cells died from the strain. Life After Life is a gorgeous family-drama-with-reincarnation-twist, and is the most harrowing depiction of the Blitz I’ve ever come across. A God in Ruins does the same thing for the RAF bombing campaign over Germany, gives the beloved characters slightly disappointing lives thereafter, and ends with a twist like a gut punch. It’s gone back on my shelf, and I haven’t dared look at it since. Tomorrow I will be charging through January’s book club book, with ten hours till book club, because leaving books till the last minute and causing myself great stress is my ABSOLUTE speciality.

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We have just booked tickets to my brother’s wedding in the Spring. California, Oregon, Utah. I am utterly thrilled and also doing a full-body cringe at the expense of carting four humans across the Atlantic, as per. Please send your San Francisco recommendations if you have them! Even better if it’s food-related, but you knew that.

February is historically my least-favourite month (HOW CAN IT STILL BE COLD AND WITH NO GREEN ANYWHERE) but with enough skies like these, I think we’ll be alright. I think I could get on with January after all.

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Something to bake: raspberry and hazelnut flapjack bars

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I bake for lots of reasons. Because I need to bring refreshments somewhere. Because I need to supply our cupboards more conveniently with emergency cake. And for comfort, of course, always for comfort. In a week in which David Bowie and Alan Rickman have both passed on unexpectedly, plus that avalanche earlier in the week and the shootings and explosions that seem to be business as usual, it feels like comfort is in short supply.

Baking doesn’t fix anything, of course, not really. But I think that any good thing adds to your personal stock of good things, and that the world could always use more cake and more kindness.

This afternoon, then, I baked the BBC Good Food’s raspberry and pine nut bars (recipe when you follow the link). They’re buttery flapjacks made squishier and more exciting by fresh raspberries in the middle and chopped nuts on top. I didn’t have pine nuts so used some leftover hazelnuts. It worked fine. Our kitchen is a little warmer and we’re a little happier, which is what Thursday needed to feel a little warmer and happier too.

Start with flour, porridge oats and softened butter, and mix it all up by hand. The recipe said you should end up with coarse crumbs, and mine looked more like oaty frogspawn. It’s all fine.

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Put about two-thirds of the mixture at bottom of a 9″ square pan, and scatter raspberries on top. The raspberries don’t cover the whole thing, so I might chop or crush them a little next time. But you might prefer to keep them whole.

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Then the rest of the oaty mixture goes on top, filling in the gaps. Press down, gently, and bake for 35-40 mins. I found baking them at the shorter end of that time scale was better: they will seem too squishy when you first get them out, but cut them into bars immediately and then let them cool in the tin, and they’ll harden just enough to keep together and be delicious.

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Eat with a little clotted cream, if you like to live decadently. I always do.

How to make someone feel better about anything (for Grandpa, 1928-2015)

It was..somewhere in 2007, or 2008? I was intensely vulnerable, cramped, unsettled, unhappy. Nowhere near my best self, and painfully aware of it. Something small had happened to make me feel all of those things more acutely.

I sat in my mother-in-law’s car, shivering, with a knot in my stomach. On Grandpa’s driveway (Tim’s Grandpa, not mine, though I’d mentally adopted them both as my own some months before, and hadn’t told them). Grandpa Tom came out and opened the door. He took my hand in his – a firm, warm grip – and looked me very steadily in the eye.

‘You are one of us now’, he said. ‘Don’t you forget it.

‘You’re ours now, and we’re not leaving.’

He really meant it. I believed it. I can’t think of a better indication of the kind of man he was.

I’ve always hoped I’ll be able to do the same for someone else, someday.

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Why I won’t be wishing you the ‘best year ever’ in 2016

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via westcoastmama.net

Happy new year! (Yes I know it’s too late to say that, but I’m still asking people about their Christmas, because my small talk regularly wins awards.)

It is the new year, but I won’t be wishing you the best year ever. And it’s not because I don’t like you, because I do. Very much. Look how lovely you are.

It’s just that I don’t think it’s helpful. I’m already so seduced by new beginnings, I tend to think that a fresh start means everything will be different and better, all the time. And I don’t think it’s just me. The First of January! I think, putting in mental capital letters and exclamation marks. Farewell to my weaknesses and crappy circumstances! Hello to a shiny new life! 

I find it incredibly touching actually, this human willingness to try harder, to be better, that comes about at the beginning of a new year. But. A couple of weeks later I’m stuck in the middle of January, knowing that after that comes February, truly the wrinkled old backside of the natural year if ever there was one, and the flowers still aren’t out and Spring still isn’t here and it will be cold forever and ever, amen.

So I am disappointed. I abandon my grand plans for change. Life carries on very much as it did before.

I am not saying that deciding to change is a bad thing. No, it is the best thing. But life doesn’t turn into one great upward spiral towards the sun just because we’ve turned into the new year. Or, in fact, because any big change has come about. If I expect that it will, I’m going to be disheartened.

Life is like the British weather.

One sunny morning followed by one blustery afternoon followed by one wet evening followed by a night so clear you can see galaxies of stars, pinpricked against the heavens.

One breathless, beautiful moment after insanely difficult moment after moment of unbearable grief after moment of transcendent joy.

Darlings, you do not need a Best Year Ever, you need to be happy. And you need to change for the better in a way that you decide. And happiness (and change too) comes in tiny portions, one after the other. Interleaved with sadness, boredom, weakness, fear, and every other emotion we cram into our expansive selves.

You are too miraculously complex to boil down to A Good Year, or even A Good Day. There is a universe in every day you spend breathing. Some days – some weeks, or months – will just feel awful. If you’re there now, I’m so sorry. I hope you have people around you to lift you, and that you know you have my sisterhood and sympathy too.

But I know this: life is like the weather, and you will come into a sunny morning again soon. There will be light and warmth on your skin. It will make you feel hopeful for sunny mornings to come.

So let’s not wish in years. Let’s wish in minutes.

To you brand-new mothers, I wish you a minute where your sore boobs and sleep deprivation quiet down in the face of your baby’s breath against your skin.

To you women who juggle work and babies and far too many other things, I wish you a minute where you realise what a significant role model you are for your children, and how badly the world needs more kids raised by mothers who Get Stuff Done.

To you mothers of toddlers, I wish you a minute of calm with a chubby, sticky cheek held against yours. I wish you an enthusiastic reception of a dinner that would normally be rejected. I wish you a quiet night.

To you women and mothers alone, I wish you minutes of powerful friendship with people as strong and brilliant as you are. I wish you minutes of weakness where you accept that you don’t have to be brilliant all the time, and embrace yourself anyway.

I wish you a minute where you realise how perfectly acceptable you are. I wish you sisterhood. I wish you self-love and self-motivation, in lots and lots of minutes.

Let’s do this together.

 

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