Back in the saddle again.

Quite sheepishly, here I am again. Having announced in a typically actressy dramatic fashion that THAT WAS IT, it was all over, finished, done with, through, I would no longer be writing my blog, may you all weep and mourn me for weeks and months to come… here I am, a mere ten days later.

I can’t seem to stick at anything, not even being depressed. I tried my hardest, I lay on the sofa crying, I hated myself with a vengeance, I concentrated my hardest on thinking gloomy thoughts, but then our first load of summer visitors arrived and having a house full of people jolted me sharpishly out of feeling sorry for myself. You just can’t be depressed with a ton of friends around, smiling and pouring you a glass of wine and saying how they love your house and how adorable your kids are and isn’t your man handsome and funny and how gorgeous the weather is and aren’t you lucky. I started to feel quite selfish and even a little stupid about feeling so down.

And then there was a circus festival down the road where I saw a ton of shows, seething with jealousy at the performers on stage and willing one of them to break their ankle so that I could leap up and cry “Have no fear! I can replace him/her/it! I’m a multi-talented actress/dancer/accordion player/juggler/trapeze artist/bareback horse rider/acrobatic horse!” (the last five are lies but I was ready to try). I also really enjoyed the shows and swore to steal as many ideas as possible and make my own one woman show, with which I am planning to tour the world, be knighted for cheering whole continents up and conquer the universe. All that by next year. So I was already feeling a lot more cheery and was considering maybe writing a post or two, and then my sister (Sister 2) went and created her own blog for her homemade kids’ clothes line, Heavens-to-Betsy. Well, not only did it look a lot better than my blog, which I hadn’t updated visuals-wise since 1977, but by her 4th day she already had 94 readers. My utter maximum in a day is 144. There is nothing better than sibling rivalry to give you a wake-up call in the form of a slap round the face. Which is why I am sitting on our sofa right now, ignoring the glorious sunshine outside (no, I don’t live in the UK) and making my blog at least look a bit better, even if the content is still waffly and largely incoherent.

The other thing that stopped my down-in-the-dumpsiness in its tracks was having to rush Tommy to emergency ward on Sunday afternoon. His right leg just stopped working. He couldn’t walk, stand up or even move it without screaming with pain. I drove him to the hospital where they did x-rays, scans and blood tests and slept overnight with him on a camp bed. L’Homme took over yesterday and I came home to look after Léonie. This morning they operated on Tommy. They extracted the fluid that was in his hip and sent it off to be tested. We’ll know more about what he’s got in a couple of days when we get the results. It’s either a benign “rhume de hanche” (“hip cold” which I had never heard of) or it’s something more serious, maybe treatable with antibiotics, maybe not. I drove Léonie and I to the hospital this morning to be there when he woke up from his anaesthetic. His leg was in a traction thing with a weight on the end to try and straighten it out. He has a small incision on his left hip. He was all grumpy and upset and worried that he would always have a weight attached to his ankle. “It’s there forever Mummy? Oh no Mummy!” I reassured him that he would be up and about in a couple of days but the doctors reckon they’re keeping him in at least another 3 or 4 days. They need to be sure it’s not anything serious and they need the blood tests to show the infection marker going down, rather than up, which is what it has been doing until now.

Just a few days ago I remarked out loud how lovely it is in the summer because the kids are never ill.

All this makes me wonder whether I should put off going back to acting and performing for another year or so. The kids are still so little and still so prone to dodgy illnesses which land them in hospital. With L’Homme on the road 8 months out of every 12 I’m usually the only one here to look after them, although this time we are lucky it has happened while L’Homme is home.

Ironic really. We had put this week aside to “spend time together” – ie. put the kids to bed early and stay up late sipping wine in the sunset. Instead we’ll be seeing each other fleetingly at the hospital as the other one takes over, swapping car keys and nappy bag and Léonie. But at least all this has put life into perspective and hoisted me back into the saddle again (even if I do have a bit of chafing saddle sore).

I’m just crossing my fingers and praying to Zeus (or whatever god will listen to me), that Tommy’s leg problem is nothing serious and that he’ll be back on his bike soon.

Advertisements

Jubilee?

For those of you looking for ways to avoid the Jubilee week-end, I have a solution. Simply leave the country. Just until Wednesday. Outside of England the world goes on, oblivious to all the bunting and Union Jack cupcakes. For those of you really allergic, make sure you go to a rural area of whatever country you have chosen to avoid the Jubilee in. That way you will ensure any sort of reference to the Jubilee whatsoever. We live in the countryside in the south of France where most of the villagers aren’t quite sure where Britain is situated, and those that remember it’s northwards think King George is still in charge.

Since yesterday I have been ignoring the Jubilee by cleaning our summer room and getting it ready for today’s guests. L’Homme is whisking Tommy off to the restaurant before taking him to circus rehearsals. At 4 o’clock we’ll all get to see him doing his circus show (note: Tommy is 4 and just yesterday announced he does trapeze in their show. Gulp.) I am only aware it’s Jubilee weekend because Sister 2 sent me an invitation to her Jubilee Sale of bespoke skirts and dresses for those of us short and cute enough to wear them (under 8 year olds). No doubt a significant percentage of little girls in Sheffield are wearing her skirts today. For those of you living in or near Sheffield, her cottage shed industry is called Heavens To Betsy. For some reason her website isn’t up, probably because she’s frightened of being overwhelmed by 500 orders coming in and having to disappoint people seeing as she is also taking care of three children. This is the danger of making beautiful clothes yet only having 6 and a half minutes to yourself per day. Anyway, here’s her invitation to give you an idea of her skirts. This is the only thing vaguely Jubilee-ish that I am happy to celebrate.

Heavens to Betsy Jubilee sale

Yesterday I read about a campaign to rename the tower housing Big Ben Elizabeth Tower. It has received the backing of the majority of MPs. The Bournemouth East MP has said the clock tower should be formally named in honour of the Queen, in recognition of 60 years’ of unbroken public service for her country. Well, wouldn’t you retain your unbroken public service when it involved living in the lap of luxury, having numerous big houses, servants running around at your beck and call, a collection of tiaras and lots of different pairs of sequined gloves to wear while waving at the masses? I would. I bet she doesn’t even have to walk her dogs.

When I first came to France I plunged headfirst into all things French. My English went wonky, I forgot who played who in Blackadder, I had no idea Take That were making a come-back. Sister 2, along with Sister 1 who got me back into Radio 4, became responsable for reminding me I am English and for keeping me in touch with British culture. When it was the world cup, she sent me England football team pants for Tommy. For the Kate & Will’s wedding last year she sent Tommy the main members of the Royal family in plastic figurine format. She also sent Léonie a pair of little Union Jack baby slippers, which Léonie adores. That is, until this morning, when she loudly and kickingly refused to put them on, threw them across the bathroom and later tried to put them in the kitchen bin. Could this be her way of poo-pooing the Jubilee celebrations? Little anarchist.

Lunch

Let me describe my lunch.

Those of you acquainted with my lifestyle will be thinking “7 bits of left-over cold pasta twirls, a chewed crust and some broccoli, slightly mushed, scraped off of small, plastic, Barbapapa plate, followed by a dribbled in, slightly snotty, half-eaten strawberry yoghurt.”

Well no. Not today. Today I am eating green salad, crisp crackers and fresh goats cheese, all oozled in fine olive oil and ground pepper. Wow. How healthy. How slimming-seeming. How sophisticated. It would be, except the only reason I am eating this is because it’s all we have in the fridge. Aside from coffee. And chocolate. Which I am now going to have to eat lots of, in order to make up for such a healthy meal.

The other freaky thing about this lunch is I AM EATING IT ALL ON MY OWN. Outside. On the terrace. Breathing in the view. Yes, I am gloating, because usually I don’t even notice there is a view there as I dash up and down the stairs to the kitchen fetching kitchen paper, a bib, another spoon, some fizzy water and a replacement plastic cup for the one that got flung over the balcony into the vegetable patch.

Sister Two will write to me saying “Oh no, you’ve blown it – people don’t want to know you’re having a lovely, peaceful lunch – we want to read about you struggling out there in your lost-in-France village”. Do not fear. I shall be struggling anon. Léonie will wake up, Tommy will get home from school and it’ll be all hands on deck.

No, I'm not in prison, those aren't bars. Honest.

Ode to Sister Two

Oh dear Sister Two, you have so much to do, three children, a house, and a craft business too, with needles and thread and sequins and glue, and tea-towels and glitter and ribbons and goo, then sometime around two, there’s time for a brew, then quick rush to school and rush back and BOO! – someone’s popped round wondering if you, might be able to whip up a comforting stew, or spaghetti bol or cupcakes for Sue, or maybe, yes, ooh! everyone would go “whoooo!” – some Peppa Pig biscuits, in pink, green and blue! Then right there on cue, wee Marnie flies through, Sonny chasing her : “she stepped on my zoo!”, they run into the loo, but Herbie needs a poo, “Open the door RIGHT NOW! You two!” If you could you’d sue, or try out voodoo, or maybe, just maybe move to Timbuctoo… yeah, just join the queue, I’d like to go too, but right now we’re here, so what can we do? I haven’t a clue, but I do think that YOU, are doing quite marvellously, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU.

PS: besides the three kids, the house, the beautiful clothes she makes (Heavens to Betsy), my sister (Sister Two) also ran a half marathon last year, climbed Everest and re-invented the wheel.

PPS: Sister One – I know Sister Two’s ode is slightly longer than yours. But the form is less poetic. And I am getting into the swing of this ode-penning. And there are more things that rhyme with two.

Ode to Sister One

Sister One

So much fun

Makes nice scones and cakes and buns.

Sister One

Went for a run

Did some Pilates, sat in the sun.

Sister One

Son of a gun,

Organised a party, got things done.

Sister One

Never one to shun

None so n°1 as Sister One.

Sleep less to survive.

Well, it’s all gone horribly wrong. My little baby girl, who was such a champion sleeper, has turned into the terror of my nights. She wakes up every 2 hours and ONLY a feed will get her back off to sleep again. This means I sleep in fits of one and a half hours. She is coming up to 8 months, so according to the experts (my sisters) she is too young to try out sleep training, which is actually a relief as I can’t stand the crying-it-out technique or anything vaguely resembling it. However, if this goes on for another 2 months, apparently I will eventually break down and end up letting her cry for hours at a time as I kip down in the cellar with industrial size earplugs squished into my ears and a bucket on my head. In any case, it’s the summer, which means we’ve had streams of friends coming through and more are coming right up until next week when we go on holiday. Having people to stay and visiting other people’s homes is definitely not the right moment to try and shift a baby’s sleep patterns. This means I’m going to have to hold on until September when we’re home just the four of us and can give Léonie a nice, structured routine to her days, and thus hopefully to her nights too. But September is five weeks away. I don’t know if I can survive until then on such little sleep. In a panic I phoned up Sister One.

“You have no choice” she replied. “You have to change your mindset. You have to stop obsessing about your lack of sleep, you have to stop counting the hours of kip you actually get, and decide that you DON’T ACTUALLY NEED THAT MUCH SLEEP TO SURVIVE. Tell yourself that 5 hours of interrupted, broken, dashed and smashed sleep is just fine. Believe it. Bung some earphones on and listen to Radio 4 while you’re up all night. You’ll be okay. You’ll make it though. Just don’t do any long car drives, operate machinery or high-speed blenders over the next few weeks … erm, months. May the Force be with you.”

So I decided to go looking for some scientific research on the matter that might help me persuade myself that sleeping so little won’t harm me one little smidgen. One of the great things about internet is that you can always find a scientific study to back up a theory, no matter how ludicrous it might be. I even found that sleeping between five and six-and-a-half hours a night can actually help you to live longer. That is, if you’re a middle-aged or elderly woman. Maybe I am middle-aged though … is 38 middle-aged? I have no idea. Whatever, I was pleased to read the findings of Doc Kripke (who, with that name, could also be a crisp):

“Daniel Kripke, professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, said: “The surprise was that when sleep was measured objectively, the best survival was observed among women who slept five to 6.5 hours.” ”

Hoorah. So I’m now off to bed to sleep exactly that amount of time and thus increase my chances of survival.

kick-start

There’s nothing better than a kick up the bum from an elder sister for making things move. Sister One is apparently sick to the back teeth of seeing the same “Sexy Breastfeeding Bras” article when she opens up my blog. Seeing as she is a tenth of my readers, that gives her quite a bit of clout. And she’s right, who wants to read about breastfeeding bras, aside from other breastfeeding mothers, and strange men from Ealing?

My sister gave me a good spanking great kick up the bum many years ago when she set eyes on me for the first time in a year. During that year I had been trying my hardest to lose as much weight as possible. It wasn’t difficult, despite only weighing 7 stone in the first place. A teenaged metabolism is busy building body, burning up a ton of calories in the process. So if you deprive it of food, it not only burns up what little fat the body owns, it also fast becomes demineralised. I was a skinny little mess at 16. There are no photos of me at that period as I looked like a famine victim. I weighed under 5 and a half stone when my sister saw me. She screamed at me. What the fuck did I think I was doing? How could I be so stupid? I had better start eating again or there’d be hell to pay. No-one had dared shout at me like that. Everyone had been tiptoeing delicately around the subject, trying not to shake me up. Well my sister shook me up. I even seem to remember she literally shook me – my big head lolling on my scrawny neck (that’s a surefire way to spot an anorexic a mile off : Big Head Skinny Neck – they look like E.T.). It shook me and shocked me into reality. The truth was, I was killing myself off. Slowly but surely starting to disappear. I think if I had continued another year I would have been in big trouble. As it was the doctors didn’t hospitalise me because my parents begged them not to, but no-one had dared shout the truth in my face, until my sister did.

And now she has given me another kick-start, although the situation is a tad less critical. After all, if I don’t write a thing on my blog ever again no-one will die from it (except, potentially, the man from Ealing). But it does some good to be kicked up the bum, reminded that life is there to be lived and that blogs are there to be blogged. I shall do my best to write more regularly and to eat another portion of apple crumble of an evening.

London, 6 kids

Woe is me. Another whop-off ten whole days have whizzed by. My computer is still down but I am now in London writing on Sister One’s computer which means I can only say nice things about her as otherwise she will deny me access to her keyboard. Tommy and I arrived the day before yesterday on the Eurostar and were met at St Pancras by Sister Two and her horde of seventeen. Sorry, three. But I think it must sometimes feel like she has seventeen. Tommy, who had been talking about his cousins for the preceding four hours, fell into a sulky silence and stuffed his thumb in his mouth, refusing to talk to or even acknowledge any of them – which was a lovely way to say thank you for waiting for an entire hour at the station so we could all get a taxi together. Sister Two said an hour was no time at all for her and the kids; apparently it takes them half an hour just to get down an escalator together.

So two mummies and five kids rolled up at the house to be met by another mummy and two more kids, and thus chaos prevailed. The kids ran rampage. The mummies drank tea and ate scones, trying not to think of the tidying-up consequences of the tornado that was whipping through the house and garden. It actually turned out to be not so bad. Three mummies on the case means meals, bathtimes and house-blitzing turns out to be relatively simple as each mummy takes on a chunk of the work. This is where our society has got it wrong. Us mummies are all split up from each other, living far too far away from our siblings and best friends, juggling everything on our own and in dire need of another mummy in the house with which to share the chores, the kids, a cup of tea and a good giggle. I say this, but I suspect that if my sisters and I all lived together for more than a few days with our six kids underfoot, we would end up killing each other. Or the kids would join forces and take power and we would be relegated to a small cupboard, only allowed out to cook, clean up and wipe small bottoms. In fact, on a bad day, this is sometimes what motherhood feels like. ON A BAD DAY, I said. On good days I wish I had seven children all of my own, smothering me in love and kisses and jam-smothered cheekiness. And a cleaner.