The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

Embracing 40……..Working Mammy and a whole lot more

on January 17, 2014

It’s a week packed full of Birthday celebrations and today marks the 40th Birthday of a friend I’ve known for the longest time. Since we were seven years old in fact, which makes her my longest standing childhood friend.

My family had just moved to Sunderland to open up a new takeaway business located on the main road between our home and my new Junior school. In those days, there seemed less attention on league tables and Ofsted reports in deciding which school we would go to and having the decision based on walking distance from home. I can picture the route from home to school, I think it may have taken half an hour to walk it which many of us did but I don’t think you would chance it these days. It would have saved me being chased down the road by the big dog that lived at the top of our street.

Out of curiosity I looked up the Ofsted report for this school and was pleased to see it scored Good for most areas of learning and development and Outstanding for pupil behaviour. It’s always awkward being the new kid in class, the focus of attention can be mortifying at the start until you get settled in. My class were kind and accepting though and I loved this school, except for the Goblin in the Girls Toilet episode.

Working Mammy and I were in the same class and if I were to describe how I remember her back then, I can only use words such as popular, clever and talented. Definitely one of the stars of our year, if not the school. She was in the school choir (actually so was I but if you heard me sing now then you’d know I was only ever chosen to make up the background noise), she played the recorder during Assembly (an excellent instrument and I’m happy to see it still thrives in schools today), she was one of a few to be chosen to play the violin, she was one of four Narrators for one year’s school Christmas show and she was Class Monitor. There’s quite a lot to do at school come to think of it.

Outside of school, she went to Brownies, took British Sign Language lessons, gymnastics and trampolining lessons. She was active and lively and doing stuff. This may not sound unusual to you and I in this modern age of parenting where it would be unusual for children as young as three onwards to not have some form of extra curriculum activity going on. Certainly to a seven year old me in the early 80s, it sounded like so much fun and I did feel like I was missing out on so many things. But with a family working every afternoon and all the nights in the takeaways earning a living, there was just no one around to take you these places I’m afraid. So if you see me enrolling #1, 2 and 3 into all sorts of Clubs and sporting activities then you know it’s to compensate for my lack of participation as a child.

Since becoming a parent myself, I understand more the influence we have on our children, especially in their formative years. We’re the ones guiding their interest and enabling their involvement in a broad range of activities with hopefully positive effect. Elbear’s son who is almost 11, is an avid Formula One fan like his Dad, #1 is garnering an interest in Star Wars because he noticed Nana Moon and I like it but Mrs Cake Pops tried to persuade her son to trial a karate class today and he bluntly told her to ‘You go by yourself’. Sometimes it works.

My children take for granted there will be at least one play date a week in their social diary. Play dates were not that common in my upbringing for reasons that include it will turn you into a street ruffian, too much play will make you lose focus on your studies and most importantly, why on earth would you want to stray outside of your home? We used to live in this cul de sac that had a lovely patch of green outside and all the neighbourhood kids would come and call on me (although we didn’t go to the same school, I wonder which school they went to then?) but I was hardly ever allowed out. I bet they thought our family was weird.

So I do remember the kindness of the Mammy of Working Mammy inviting me round to theirs for tea after school and then dropping me off back at our takeaway afterwards. My Dad Mr Li remembers it too and still likes to hear about The Girl from Sunderland. None of you are referred to by your names but as The Girl from Guildford, The Girl from Wales, The Girl from Middlesborough. It’s like not being able to visualise a car until you know what colour it is. I remember going to one of Working Mammy’s birthday parties when she turned eight or nine and I remember the genius of her Mammy in coming up with her fancy dress costume for someone else’s birthday party. She came dressed as an old Victorian lady complete with frilly cap and spectacles.

I only lived in Sunderland for just over three years. We moved again during the October of my fourth year of Junior School and it was sooooo unfair. I had friends that I loved being around and it was incredibly difficult. I remember walking across the school yard with Working Mammy and two other girls crying my eyes out with my Dad Mr Li waiting to pick me up and take me to my new home far, far away.

At the age of ten, we promised to write and stay in touch. And Working Mammy did. We carried on writing when we moved again to Chester-le-Street another three years later. Then it tapered off as the teenage years brought with it distractions. Then University, leaving home and having multiple new addresses didn’t help.

Yet the fact we are still in touch now is all due to Working Mammy because she never gives up and I’m flattered and feel privileged that she did make contact again. It’s quite something special when you realise someone is thinking about you, that they liked you enough then to want to get to know you again now.

When I saw Working Mammy after having not seen her since we were in our early teens ( I used to plead with My Dad Mr Li to make a detour if we were passing by Sunderland so I could say Hello), I was understandably nervous. What would she think of me after all these years? Would we get along? What would we have to say? She invited Husband and I to come and celebrate her 30th Birthday at Tiger Tiger (nothing like the one in Piccadilly Circus at the time, classier if you can imagine) in Newcastle Upon Tyne and I was so chuffed and excited to come up especially for it. What was she like then? Exactly how she has always been. Warm, welcoming and engaging with a big smile.

Since then we’ve shared notes on weddings plans as we got married within months of each other and we had our boys months apart too. Whenever I’ve been back to Newcastle, I’ve mostly been able to catch up with her and she makes you feel like no time has passed at all. Perhaps it’s the Northern friendliness. Perhaps it’s because some people are just born with natural good grace.

I admired Working Mammy when we were children and I admire her now as a Working Mammy and everything else that she is. She has a blog which is beautifully written about her everyday life and I look forward to her next posting. She is a wonderful, strong and vibrant woman who is only going to grab more out of everything this next decade.

Happy 40th Birthday Working Mammy! I can see you’re really enjoying your day of pampering and relaxation. Have a wonderful time in Edinburgh and you’re looking far better than Kate Moss pet!



One response to “Embracing 40……..Working Mammy and a whole lot more

  1. workingmammy says:

    Thank you my pet means so much x x x


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