Note to self: don’t forget to have fun

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Lately I’ve been making lots of plans. I’m writing a book and editing another. We’re hoping to move house so I’ve been decluttering and cleaning and trying to whip our two tiny – and horrifically neglected – gardens into some sort of shape. I’m trying to go to the gym and eat a bit more healthily. So I made – as I always do – a to do list.

The way I work best is baby steps, a little every day. If I try to do a lot at once, I get overwhelmed and do nothing at all. Which is why I set the 1000 words a day writing target, which has been going so well… Or it had, until the last couple of weeks. I’m now 10,000 words behind and I haven’t written anything at all this week.

Last weekend we were lucky enough to spend a few days at the seaside, housesitting for a friend. I read lots and watched TV, we walked down to the beach at every opportunity (and, of course, had fish and chips) and walked to a local pub for brunch on Sunday. I went for a mooch round the local shops and sat in a coffee shop and wrote for a while. And then we came home.

And I felt completely fed up, which always makes me feel guilty because god knows I know how lucky I am. Partly I think it’s because at the weekend we had everything we’re wanting from our house move, but the moves seems quite a way off (also, we’ve been in this house for ten years and it just seems like such a big thing to do that part of me doesn’t believe it’s really going to happen).

And then yesterday I spent the day with a friend I haven’t seen for years (even though she only lives about ten minutes away!). It started as a meet-up in the park, but then thanks to the rain – and to our boys getting on so well together – it ended up lasting for most of the day. The boys played, we talked and talked and I realised what I’ve been missing.

Fun.

Yes, I’m making a bit of progress in a bunch of areas, but every day I get up and the same things are on my to do list. And yes, I’m so grateful that these things include ‘Write 1000 words’ and ‘spend 15 minutes on the garden’ rather than, say, spending an hour on the motorway and eight hours in an office, like my husband does, but doesn’t everything become monotonous if you do it every single day? (I remember looking at the Water Buses in Venice and wondering if the commuters were sitting and sighing about work or if they were looking out and thinking how bloody lucky they are to sail through Venice every morning. I bet it’s the former.)

So for the next few weeks I’m going to focus on fun. I’m going to read what I want, watch what I want, eat what I love, and get out of the house as much as possible. And if that wordcount widget doesn’t move, and if the oven doesn’t get cleaned (it won’t), and if the weeds take back the garden, that’s ok.

100 good things that have happened in my life

I’m having one of my quarterly clear-outs and being even stricter this time, since we’re hoping to move house this year. I just found this list in a notebook and thought I’d post it here for posterity (mine).

Since I mention getting pregnant and seeing the scan, but not, you know, having a baby, I assume I wrote this while I was pregnant which a) explains some of the odd choices – I was in a total dreamland when preggers; and b) means it was written about 10 years ago.

There are quite a few things on here I’d forgotten all about and one (sunset from the Brooklyn Bridge) I don’t remember at all, but I’m glad I found it. Now to chuck out the rest of the half-completed notebooks (so many notebooks).

1. Meeting David
2. Being best friends with my mum.
3. Being best friends with my sister.
4. Jake.
5. Toby.
6. Moving to London.
7. Travelling around America.
8. Getting pregnant.
9. Seeing the scan.
10. Seeing Christopher Eccleston in Manchester.
11. Seeing The Darkness live.
12. Discovering Barry Manilow.
13. Discovering Armistead Maupin.
14. Finding the real Barbary Lane.
15. My friendships with Susan, Sarah and Byron.
16. Going to university.
17. Meeting my friends.
18. Working at Waterstones.
19. Meeting authors.
20. My grandparents.
21. Eating shrimp butties.
22. San Luis Obispo.
23. Discovering O Magazine.
24. The Wish List.
25. Whitby.
26. Barcelona.
27. Malta.
28. Samos.
29. Standing on top of the World Trade Centre.
30. Watching the sunset in Seattle.
31. When Harry Met Sally.
32. reading Bread Alone all the way through when I was ill.
33. The lovely Christmas at Jo and Andy’s.
34. Waking up on Christmas morning and feeling with my feet if Santa had been.
35. Hearing the bells and getting a kiss from “Santa.”
36. American TV: Friends, ER, The West Wing, Six Feet Under.
37. The email from Dad when we were in America.
38. Horse drawn buggy in Central Park.
39. My wedding.
40. Seeing the rabbits on the Red Noses.
41. Eating pizza in Piran.
42. Being published in Smash Hits.
43. Working for Bob Geldof and Paula Yates.
44. Feeding ducks.
45. Meeting Gemma (dog).
46. Being librarian at primary school.
47. The view from the balcony in Piran.
48. The Red House Hotel in Bath.
49. And the curry.
50. Getting a first for a university essay.
51. Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge.
52. The Chuckle Club.
53. Euro 96 at Finchley.
54. Mrs C (at Finchley).
55. Eating crepes in Paris.
56. Sunday lunches at Ealing.
57. The Booths.
58. Charlie and Lucinda.
59. The ‘Drunk’ episode of Men Behaving Badly.
60. Driving through the mountains in Majorca.
61. Reading In Her Shoes with a latte and a Danish in the Royal Exchange Arcade.
62. Seeing Barry Manilow at the Royal Albert Hall.
63. Having a song dedicated to me at Don’s gig.
64. Getting a thank you on Bjorn Again’s LP.
65. Working backstage at the Floral Pavilion.
66. Watching Bros from side stage in Trojes.
67. Reading Mallory Towers.
68. Walking from Euston to Lancaster Gate and looking at the paintings on Bayswater Rd.
69. Getting the train across America.
70. Seeing the Grand Canyon.
71. Sunday night baths.
72. Martha Beck.
73. Watching the dancing on the pier in Chicago.
74. Seeing Blackburn Rovers win the Premiership.
75. Seeing Janet Evanovich at St Ann’s Church.
76. Lying on the beach at Brighton, shielding out the light.
77. Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset.
78. Venice – the view from the bridge.
79. Climbing trees with Angela.
80. Lying in the long grass on Hilbre Island.
81. Winning Bits & Pieces at the Radio One Roadshow.
82. The Lake District with D.
83. Attending the premiere of Interview With the Vampire and sitting in front of Tom Cruise.
84. Peter Cox walking me home.
85. Seeing Edie Falco and Stanley Tucci on Broadway.
86. The Roosevelt Island tramway.
87. Running the Race for Life.
88. Nipper.
89. Walking down Hollywood Boulevard and putting my hands in the handprints.
90. The Natural History Museum.
91. Matt singing Face the Wind at Bury.
92. Writing my blog.
93. Join Me.
94. The Amalfi Drive.
95. Red wine.
96. Stevie Wonder live.
97. Watching Il Postino and Cinema Paradiso at the Phoenix.
98. Drinking orange juice in Symi.
99. Uni leaving do at The Life Cafe.
100. Hot chocolate and churros for breakfast in Barcelona.

Is that too much to ask for?

All-I-really-want-to-do-is-spend-my-life-travelling-the-world-reading-books-that-take-my-breath-awayI saw this quote on Twitter the other night and it made me gasp.

This is what I want. Exactly what I want. (Well, not exactly. As my friend Kate pointed out, you could replace “tea” with “wine”…)

I mean, I know I’m hardly unique in this. I know this is probably the perfect life for many many people, but… when I saw it, something sparked inside me. Because I do want that. Exactly that (with wine) and I’ve wanted it for as long as I can remember. But do I spend my life in a way that’s bringing me closer to that? Nope. 

I love my life. I’ve written before about how I used to get upset when the cherry blossom arrived because it meant another year had gone by and I still felt… stuck. I don’t feel like that now. I love writing books (book news soon, I hope). I love home educating. I love my husband and my boys and my house (although I’d love my house more if I could move it to another town). I love myself (and it’s taken me a long time to say that!). 

But I find it so easy to get stuck in a rut. I’m kind of lazy and even though I do a lot of stuff, I don’t really do it as well or as much as I could. When I read Brené Brown on “wholehearted” living, it made my heart beat faster. Because I am half-hearted. In almost everything. (So I guess at least I’m wholly half-hearted…) And I don’t want to be that way anymore. 

I’m 42. Time is passing. Fast. My boys are growing up. I always tell myself we’ll have more money in the future, we’ll be able to live the way we want to in the future. But I’ve been telling myself that for – what? – 30 years now? I need to do what I can now to make sure we do have more. More travel, more books, more tea, more writing, more wine.

Wholeheartedly. 

Life Begins at 22 (a blorgy)

Me at 22-ish.
Me at 22-ish.

At 22 I was living in London. I’d moved there age 18, which people tell me was brave. Actually, I think it was brave. But at the time it didn’t seem brave, it seemed necessary.

When I moved, I worked as a live-in “Mother’s Help” but by the time I was 22, I was living in a bedsit behind of row of shows, opposite Ealing Common tube. It had been advertised as a mews house, but it was more of a converted garage, the gaps at the tops of the bare brick walls had been plugged with empty bread bags and slugs danced across the carpet every night.

I worked for an accountancy firm that also had a Dublin office. For the Christmas party, the Irish contingent came over and joined us for dinner. The previous year, I’d had a flirtation with one of the Irish staffers, but had subsequently learned he had a girlfriend. This year, though, he was quick to tell me he was single. I was just as quick to get exceedingly drunk (although I still remember what I drank: bottled lager, wine with dinner – red and then, when the red ran out, white – a Tequila Slammer, a Black Russian, a White Russian, a Southern Comfort).

I left the hotel with the Irish guy and we staggered from doorway to doorway, snogging ferociously, until we were finally able to flag down a cab, the driver of which, I’m pretty sure, was sorry to have picked us up.

Back at the hotel, I announced to my colleagues – gathered in the bar – that Irish Guy and I were off upstairs. To his room. “To have sex,” I added from halfway up the stairs. You know, in case I’d been too subtle.

It was my first time. I don’t remember much about it. Which is probably for the best.

LIFE BEGINS AT 22 is a blorgy of sharing to celebrate the launch of BROOKLYN GIRLS by Gemma Burgess. Find out more about the book here and read more LIFE BEGINS AT 22 entries here.

Happy Birthday (to me)

I’ve written over on Bea about turning 42 (42!) but I wanted to write about what we did to celebrate my birthday yesterday. The boys woke me with a cup of tea, a bacon butty and the sunshine. Joe started basking in it like a cat.

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Once presents had been opened, breakfast had been eaten and everyone was organised, we headed off to Martin Mere. I’d read it was Downy Duckling Week and who can resist a downy duckling? We were so lucky – as soon as we walked into the hatchery, we saw a duckling peck his way right out of his shell. 

The other reason I wanted to go to Martin Mere was to do the canoe safari. I read about this ages ago and got very over-excited and, as it turned out, I was right to – it was utterly brilliant.

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We went to the hides and I took one of my favourite photos of Joe

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then the boys played in the playground and I had an ice cream. We were going to head straight home after – David had bought cake and planned to make us a birthday dinner – but the sun was shining and since that’s such a rare occurrence, I said we should make the most of it. So we drove to Southport.

My phone had run out of charge by then (and I still haven’t found my camera) so no photos, but we walked on the beach, the boys built sandcastles and we had fish and chips. 

Once we got home and washed all the sand off the boys, I got my cake (Joe blew the candles out, the bugger). The cake was four different types – a quarter of each. Genius, no? And then, once the boys were in bed, me and D opened the wine and watched The Intouchables, which was fab.

A perfect day.

Fat, family and photos

A little while ago I read this amazing blog post: So you’re feeling too fat to be photographed. I loved this bit in particular:

And if you’re thinking that high school friend on Facebook will say to herself (“wow she has gained weight”) then . . . newsflash you DID. You gained weight. Shed a tear. Read a book. Drink a Sweet Tea. Watch Oprah. Whatever it takes. Accept this reality . . . YOU GAINED WEIGHT. The truth is you’ve gained a lot of other things too (a career, a family, some kids, a house, a love for travel, the ability to coordinate your separetes . . . ) and that girl from high school is going to spend a lot more time hating on those things then she ever will on your double chin.

Because that’s exactly what I do think, mainly thanks to Facebook, but god, who cares?!

So here are some photos that I meant to post here at the time my amazing friend Sam (Wyldshots) took them, but I held back because I look fatter than I like to think I look (also, I was horribly in need of a haircut). They’re gorgeous though, aren’t they?