Saturday, 25 August 2012

Lipstick, powder and paint.. and a shedload of shoes !!

In my dreams this is what I'd look like
I told Hubbie a few weeks back that I wanted to change my image. Being a polite chap who has learned the art of not saying stupid things to his wife when she has access to a range of things to throw (macbook, mug half full with tea, remotes, etc.) he just hummed and said, "Ok."

The phrase 'change of image' suggests I had an image to start with, which is not entirely accurate. What I have is an idea in my head of how I used to dress and do my hair and nails and a distant memory that I used to think about my appearance before I left the house. I've realised that I rarely look in the mirror and don't know what I look like when I go out. So imagine how surprised I was when today two young women complimented my appearance.

Of course this is post image change and it has been many months in the making. Firstly I decided to trade in my post pregnancy jeans with wide legs and stretchy waistbands for fitted styles with a panel that holds every flabby bit in and up. I got the ones that Gok Wan makes (natch !) and put them away while I thought about wearing them when I felt up to it. I also went through a process of collecting suitably stylish tops that would be wearable and washable (essential with a toddler who likes to throw things). It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I started to wear the slimmer jeans with massive baggy blouses over the top and then today with a fancier top than I've worn in ages.

Today I read this blog about nail varnish adding-bit-of-colour and it reminded me that I used to take time and effort over my appearance. I used to paint designs on my nails and do my hair differently every day. Well it was always a variation on plaits, but it was still different. I also used to co-ordinate my shoes, bag, belt, scarf, etc. It was a full time occupation choosing what to wear and how to look. I'm not suggesting I looked any better than I do now, but I made more effort.

In reality it's more like this 
In reality I was experimenting with different looks until I found what suited me. I wore pretty much only black for about 12 years so just moving onto colour was progress. It's also been a long road which has resulted in my having far more shoes than any person could ever reasonably need and so many bags that even when I give away ten of them it still looks like day 4 of the Next sale.

As well as an inordinate amount of accessories (I haven't even mentioned scarves or jewellery !) I own enough make up to pass for a WAG. This is all the more disturbing as I barely remember to put on lipstick and eyeliner (my minimum) let alone the mascaras, eyeshadows, glosses and powders that have quietly accumulated over the years.

The only time in recent months that I've looked like anything other than a suburban Mummy is when I went to a ball and got all dressed up nice for an evening out. Before I left I said bye to my boy and he looked at me with a sideways glance. He gave a shy smile and looked a bit puzzled. I realised that he never sees Mummy look less than dull and seeing me look nice was such a surprise to him that he automatically switched to his flirting face. He usually reserves that look for Lucy the librarian, Maureen at Sainsburys and today the girls who served us in Wimpy who all waved him off as we left as he blew them kisses.

So I'm not quite in the Victoria Beckham stakes when it comes to full on glam, but I'm making more effort to look less rubbish. If for no other reason than I like the idea that my son thinks his Mummy looks pretty enough to flirt with.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Things I used to think I knew that I now know are wrong

pub_quiz_176x208_1945_t.jpgMe and Hubbie are big fans of pub quizzes. In the days before we were Mummy and Daddy we used to be quiz regulars and even had specialist areas of knowledge. Hubbie is the oracle on politics and sport, our friend Adrian is the go to guy for history and geography and I pick up the slack with some trivia and popular culture including movies. On the rare occasions that he is in the UK my friend Tim would wipe the floor with the resident quiz champs as he pretty much knows everything.

It's a wise person, however, who knows their limitations and in our early days of courting me and Hubbie almost fell out over the correct answer to a question about Blur and months (if not years) later a similar kerfuffle over Whitney Houston. What it made me realise is that while Hubbie is super clever he  is not the one to answer questions about popular music. Equally, I am incapable of proffering any answers about sport, reality tv or soaps.

It's good to know what you don't know.Or to be more precise finding out when you think you know something that you don't really. For example:

- When I was nine my sister was born and we went to meet her at the maternity hospital where she was sleeping in the cot next to my Mum's bed. I asked when she'd open her eyes - mistaking a human baby for a puppy or a kitten - and was told that when she was awake she'd open her eyes. My parents still think this is funny.

- I grew up in London so when we went to visit my uncle and aunt 'up north' they took us all out to Blackpool to see the illuminations. I thought they were nice, but nothing special. It was years later that I found out that the world famous 'Northern Lights' are not found along the promenade above the donkeys, but in the sky and are called Aurora Borealis.

- The in-laws have been on the QE2 and are partial to holidaying on cruise ships. It was after we'd been related for a few years that I admitted my childhood belief that the swimming pool on a cruise ship was merely a hole cut into the bottom of the boat. My concern was that if you dived too deep you could end up in the ocean and get left behind by the ship. It made more sense to me to use the water that was all around than to pump water into the ship to use for the purposes of swimming. I still think they're missing a planet friendly trick here if I'm honest.

The original Neo 
Being young kind of allows for misunderstanding which is why I think my son calling all cats (and some other animals that look nothing like cats) Neo is very cute. Our cat is called Neo so it made sense to him that rather than being his name that is what he is. He has recently started to say 'cat' so clearly he's picked up on this and is far smarter than his mother was.

Being a grown up hasn't stopped me from thinking things that turn out to be wrong though. Until quite recently I had believed I didn't really know anyone in Croydon. I even spent yesterday feeling sorry for myself as Hubbie was at work and the boy was at nursery and rather than enjoy a bit of quiet time I did some chores and missed them both terribly.

Then today I took the boy to the park on the tram and then to the shops and we were stopped by three people we know from three different activities. It took me a while to work out that I knew one of them from a playgroup that we go to, but I think I covered pretty well.

I guess my point is - it's ok to get things wrong sometimes.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

You have nothing to fear… except the things you're frightened of

I was scrolling through the BBC website and saw this article about China's Ghost projects  which include a theme park that was built and is now used to grow crops, a 'British Town' that is only used for wedding photo shoots and most disturbing (to me at least) a shopping mall with 1500 empty shops. This is the stuff of nightmares. Endless corridors of emptiness and the haunting echoes of masses of space with no purpose.

It disturbed me most because it made me feel very queasy and reminded me of my own irrational fear which I rarely share and am now making public. I have a phobia of empty swimming pools. When I posted this on Facebook a friend confessed to the same fear and suggested googling it. Then something odd happened. I have never felt the need to look into this fear before so I have no idea how common or otherwise it may be. I found out that it's not uncommon and that some sadist has put lots of images of empty swimming pools under the heading 'fear of empty swimming pools' which comes up about third in the search results.

A non-scary swimming pool
It's as though some wag is trying aversion therapy on the sly. I genuinely don't want to see images of swimming pools in a state of disrepair or with a small muddy puddle at the bottom of an otherwise drained space. I can't explain why it bothers me so much. I love swimming and an over-full pool bothers me far less. If there is a gap that suggests the pool is slightly under-full I do get a bit anxious. Again, I have no idea why.

I don't want my son to develop phobias so I try to get him to be braver than I ever was. I was a fearful child and it wasn't until I was an adult that I decided to face down some of those fears.

- When I visited my friend Fatima who was living in Toulouse we went a climbing wall as she had taken up climbing as a hobby. As I wrangled with footholds and handholds and negotiated belays and carabiners I didn't think about my fear of heights. From the top I had no choice, but to be ok about it, but I really did feel alright. It also meant that I was able to learn to ski as a fear of heights can be pretty debilitating otherwise.

- How I ended up sitting in a roller coaster at Chessington next to my friend Norm is anyone's guess, seeing as they are not my idea of a good time. As I tried to climb across him to get out he calmly explained that they go slower than I drive a car. Also the man who was eating his lunch sitting under it looked very relaxed about it so it probably wasn't going to kill us all. I can't say I'm an adrenaline junkie now, but at least I'm not completely terrified of them any more.

- It wasn't until my Mum reminded me that I had a toddler tantrum about getting back on a plane that I remembered my childhood fear of flying. I have Hubbie to thank for getting me past this by a) rationalising my fears for me and b) taking the mickey so mercilessly that I was distracted by laughter rather than waiting to plummet thousands of feet into the ocean.

- Another irrational one that my Mum reminded me about was automatic car washes. Apparently as a child I screamed my head off as my Dad drove the car through a car wash and had she not reminded me about it the memory would have remained buried where it belongs. Instead I used to invite people to sit and talk to me while the big rolling brushes threatened to crush us to death. Thankfully now Hubbie and my boy love to wash the car by hand, so I'm spared the trauma.

So, the biggies are dealt with. I'm pretty sure that a fear of empty swimming pools isn't going to have a detrimental effect on my life, but so long as I don't pass it on to my son I'm happy.

Monday, 13 August 2012

And the gold medal for saying new words goes to...

gold medal.jpgOk, so we're all feeling the post-Olympic love right now and it's all about celebration and it's ok to be competitive. In the spirit of pride and achievement I'm sharing while acknowledging that no-one likes a show off.

I was wildly impressed at hearing my son sing nursery rhymes - in tune - without any assistance on the long drive back from my parents sitting in traffic. He also surprised me and Hubbie by counting to ten (with some help) and as I prompted him he kept smiling shyly at me as if to say "alright then I do know how to do this really." I don't want to make him 'perform' for us, but I do love it when he does something entirely new and clever - which seems to be every day at the moment.

We have done our bit in talking to him all the time, but not everything we've done has the desired effect. Despite our vain attempts to try and influence him to sound a bit posher than we do he has developed an accent entirely of his own making. He says 'boat' and 'coach' like he's from the West Country (well his grandparents live in Hampshire, but they don't talk like that either !)

It's that balance between being a pushy parent and being wildly proud when he does something that we are wowed by. At almost two he uses new words every day and copies everything so his vocabulary is pretty vast. Words my son uses now include:

Nani (my Mum) and Nana (my Dad). He's said Grandma and Grandpa for a while now - probably because the let him get a word in edgeways. Unlike my family who bombard him with praise, cuddles and kisses the minute they see him.

Of course he knows the names of all the characters on Cbeebies - he also now says 'Bye bye' to them when the progammes finish.

When my Mum and brother were babysitting him the other night he said 'night night' as they put him to bed.

He says 'nursewy' without being traumatised by it, which is a good sign I think.

His favourite programme is 'whyme wocket' and he can identify the rhyming words (eg. mouse and house which I heard him saying while I was washing up the other day) - that just blows my mind !

Phil - the neighbour who can't pronounce my son's name gets called while his wife Jill is put out as she thought he was saying her name when she heard him calling out in our garden.

Snow - a new word this. For obvious reasons it's not been so relevant lately, but he has the basics of a conversation with any English person as he knows 'waining' and (s)'now.' If I can teach him 'parky' and 'a bit muggy' we're there.

'copter - which covers helicopters and the plane that Aunt Mabel flies in the kids programme 'Come Outside'

I'm touched by him saying 'sowwy,' although I realise at this stage he is merely parroting me rather than making a heartfelt apology for throwing his spoon across the room

Most impressive of all though is the word he's only said twice. Once at Naniji's house when he was busy emptying a toy box onto the floor and we weren't entirely sure we had heard it right. The second time in the car on the way home - accompanied by a prescient teenage eye roll. He said his own name. This may not sound like much, but my son has a pretty tricky name for a toddler to say. He said it very clearly and with some pride. Hubbie then proceeded to push him to say all his other names. He has four of them - I know pretentious, moi ?

Now that's a competitive Dad for you !

Sunday, 5 August 2012

We could be heroes… just for one day.

In a previous blog post I mentioned that I was disappointed to not have the chance to go to more events at the Olympics having been to just the beach volleyball and given my tickets away for the hockey. It was purely because Hubbie said I'd love the Olympic Park and it would be worth going to see it. So imagine my joy when he told me he had tickets for us to go to the Paralympics.

A friend of mine was at the Olympic Stadium last night as Jessica, then Greg, then Mo won gold medals and caused uproar all over the country as households watching on TV shouted, leapt up and down and felt patriotic all at once. I can well believe that it was an electric atmosphere and that there will be nothing like it again.

However, I'm not being bitter when I say that I'd rather watch the athletics at the Paralympics - I genuinely would prefer it. Of course it is a stunning achievement to make it to the Olympics and then to break records and win a gold medal all at once. It's also very gratifying to see that Team GB is represented by so many different people from backgrounds that are not traditionally 'British.' All the more enjoyable as only yesterday morning the BNP leafleted our house and I'd love to ask them how they feel about Britain being represented by people they would have 'sent back' or as the Daily Mail would have it 'plastic Brits'.

I'd prefer to watch the paralympics because there is an element of the athletes being superheroes. I don't mean this in a condescending way. After all the possibility of disabled athletes competing alongside their non-disabled peers is closer now thanks to Oscar Pistorius or the 'bladerunner' who will be the first person to compete in both the Olympics and the Paralympics. Equally South Korea's Im Dong-hyun who is completely blind competed in the archery at the Olympics.

This inclusion has to be a good thing for all involved in sport as it opens up the world of competition to anyone willing to put their effort into training for a world class event. What distinguishes a disabled athlete from the rest of us is the same as what distinguishes any athlete from the rest of us. It's not their disability it's their ability to train, commit and work hard enough to be better than the rest of us at something.

What I do hope in taking my son to the Paralympics is that he understands that disability is just another facet of life. That he will grow up to know that someone who is different in one way can still do amazing things and achieve great awards. I also want him to not feel embarrassed about disability in the way that so many people still are. Once I asked a colleague if he had been injured skiing as I hadn't noticed he walked with a stick before. He told me he had polio as a child, no big deal and we moved on. Another colleague was embarrassed on my behalf, which I just don't understand. Why is it not ok to ask a disabled person a question ? Surely better to ask and know the answer unless the person being asked is not ok about it.

A paralympian is as exceptional compared with any disabled person as Jessica Ennis is compared with me. Of course the latter is an unfair comparison as even if she weren't a lot younger and fitter than me Jessica still has the ability to be good at more than one sport while I struggle to just learn the rules.

So from a total sport-phobic I'm now an (albeit temporary) fanatic. It won't last so rest assured that I'll be back to talking about cakes and chocolate again before too long.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

With a big sigh and a heavy heart… a serious blog

I've lived for 42 years and in that time I've been made to realise that there are a lot of things about me that other people don't like. Some of them I can do something about - like talking too much, or having the wrong accent, or making a face that looks a bit too smug, or correcting poor spelling unasked. There are some things I can't do anything about, like the colour of my skin.

It amazes me that there are still people who think it's perfectly ok to make offensive remarks about race and treat it as normal or justifiable to do so. It upsets me, because my parents faced so much racism for so many years that I'm sure their only hope when it happened to them was that their children would be spared the indignity of the same.

My husband hadn't come across racism in his own life so when he married into an asian family it suddenly became a personal insult for someone to make derogatory remarks about asians as they were talking about his wife, or his mother-in-law or now his son. Imagine how much worse that is when it's a member of your own family making the remarks ?

When I was at university I shared a house with friends and we lived in an area on the outskirts of Coventry. On one occasion when I was walking home with one of my housemates and the local kids shouted out racist comments to me I ignored them and she went ballistic. It's not that I wasn't bothered. As I explained to her there is little point in telling them what they're saying is wrong when it's what they hear their parents say.

In the same vein I met up with a friend I used to go to school with when I was 8 just before she emigrated to Australia and we reminisced about some of our classmates. I have few fond memories of my school in Greenwich in the '70s when the National Front were still marching in the streets and me and my brother were the only asian children in the school until the Patels sent their daughters to the school.

My friendship with Nichola was one of the only things I recall with happiness. I was in a classroom where the teacher sat me with the only black child in the class - a strange form of selection as the other tables were based on academic ability not skin colour. One of my classmates gleefully shared that her mother had asked me to let her know when my Dad's head was better - as a Sikh he wears a turban.

Nic remarked that one of our classmates used to sing racist songs which I have no memory of at all. Maybe I've blanked it out like so much else that I don't want to recall. The interesting thing is that this lad had a promising career as a footballer, but his father was unwelcome at the Arsenal training ground due to his unreconstructed comments about people of other races. So that apple didn't fall too far from the tree then.

This has come up now because I read a comment on Facebook tonight that stunned me so much that initially I called it out for the racism is blatantly was. Then I decided that was probably too strong and decided to just say that it was offensive and inflammatory. When something like this happens I have to maintain my dignity and my ability to walk away.

I wish that I could believe I will never have to explain to my son what racism is.
I pray that in his life he doesn't hear the insults or the ignorance that make me so sad.
I hope that he is a kind and loving person regardless of what others say and do.

That's not too much to ask is it ?