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

Only as good as your last celebrity spot

There’s a bookshop I go to in Singapore called Kinokuniya. Rare to find an actual bookshop around these days. It’s located on level 3 (2nd floor) of Takashimaya Shopping Centre on Orchard Road.

Orchard Road. Singapore’s premiere shopping destination. Like a hybrid of Bond Street and Oxford Street. There must be at least 10 shopping centres and five department stores crammed into this relatively short stretch of retail heaven or hell. Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada sit alongside High Street staples with your tourist $10 tat sandwiched inbetween the gaps.

It was last September’s Grand Prix weekend when I wandered out of the book shop pushing #3 in the buggy when I spot someone I think I know but can’t quite place. I’m searching my memory archives thinking how do I know you? Whilst reassembling my features into one of some recognition in case they get in their first with the exchange of greetings.

Then it dawns on me. It’s Bernie Ecclestone with his very glamorous, immaculately dressed wife towering above him looking very befuddled. He’s looking non plussed. Used to being led I guess but she is definitely not where she wants to be. I’m fully in support of Help the Aged but for some reason I held back. Quite possibly the glamorous, immaculately dressed wife by his side put me off as I was quite impossibly unglamorous and underdressed for the occasion of bookshop browsing. I wouldn’t want her thinking I’m competition either and I had also got the wrong sort of Maclaren wheels on me too.

So I regretfully left them to fend for themselves as I watched them walk off up the escalators to level 4. Still it could have been worse and they could have found themselves in Lucky Plaza, home of the $10 tat. All the while though, I was thinking how on earth do I even know what Bernie Ecclestone looks like.

When Husband and I lived in London, celebrity spotting was quite the sport.
Mr No Beans, good friend and Best Man was an avid and worthy competitor in this game. The rules are simple, like all the best games, you’re only as good as your last random celebrity spot. So this excludes all events where you’ve paid to see said celebrity or where celebrities are likely to appear like charity events, film premieres and any publicised celebrity appearance. Otherwise my last spot would be John Cleese.

In truth I was a lot disappointed at first at having spotted Bernie because he knocked Nicole Kidman off my list. Though if I’m honest I didn’t quite follow the rules properly because I only happened across her when a friend texted me that she’d seen her having coffee at a particular shopping mall and whilst I was thinking of going to a different mall, the opportunity seemed too good to miss. She was very tall and flawless. I suppose in your job as Mega Film Star you’d have to be. The one before her was Michael Parkinson in a restaurant in Brisbane which was very exciting as having moved away from London, or indeed the UK as a whole, your odds of being able to play the game well is dramatically reduced but Mr No Beans now lives in Sydney so we’re shelving the game for now.

Living in Muswell Hill, we used to see Todd Carty (Tucker of Grange Hill if you’re that old or Mark Fowler of Eastenders if you like to think you’re not) on such a regular basis that Husband called him his Unknown Close Personal Friend. Amongst others, there’s been Maureen Lipman, Victoria Wood, Johnny Vegas, Simon Pegg and I once sat behind Tony Hadley on the bus and then was stood behind him at a Robbie Williams gig, Milton Keynes in 2006.

Another reason why I refrained from giving Bernie friendly directions is because Husband has banned me from ever making conversation with any celebrity on a random basis unless it’s for work related purposes. And I don’t blame him. No matter how much you admire someone’s work and how you imagine you’d like to tell them as much, the conversation you actually have with them is never going to be the same as the one you have with them in your head.

The League of Gentlemen remains one of my all time favourite television shows. (In fact had I attempted to speak with Bernie, I may have said ‘This is a local shop for local people, there’s nothing for you here.’) The characters are morbidly dark and make you want to shrink into your collar bones. Which is exactly how I felt when I found myself stood next to Reece Shearsmith in our local WH Smith. What I wanted to say was something suitably witty and appreciative of the show without sounding like some crazed fan. Instead I just muttered in probably a squeaky voice, ‘Excuse me?’. He quite rightly looks a bit nervous, ‘Yes?’. ‘Are you the bloke off The League of Gentlemen.’ (Knowing full well he is). ‘Yes I am.’ ‘Ok.’

If I did OMG, I’d be OMGing myself. It was so cringeworthy and then I proceeded to ‘bump’ into him twice more around the shops. I bet he was ready to take out a restraining order. Such was my embarassment, I had to confess to Husband what I’d done and now whilst I still get great enjoyment from watching the League of Gentlemen, I can’t help but relive my shame a little each time.

Another time I really wanted the earth to open up and swallow me whole was when a colleague persuaded me it would be ok to talk football with Alan Shearer. I really didn’t want to go as his reputation for being a highly private (grumpy) person is well known and what did I know about Newcastle United’s current defensive position even though they are my home team of choice. But he said it would be ok, he’d do the talking and just needed the company. So off we went, me ahead confident that he was behind me. I find myself in front of Alan Shearer and open with ‘My colleague here and I are from Newcastle and we just wanted to say Hello and are you enjoying the event?’ Except I’m pointing at thin air. He’s not there. I’m stood pretending to have a friend and looking like a tit. Then I mumble something else and scuttle off full of shame again. Incidentally that’s not the first time I’d seen him before though, he was sat at the table next to me one evening at a restaurant in Chester-le-Street some 13 years earlier.

My funniest encounter though has to be with two members of Westlife who were having a great laugh with former Leeds United manager David O’Leary. Same colleague having failed in his attempt to talk football with Alan Shearer decided David O’Leary would be a better bet and he was. As were the Westlifers. Funny, chatty and friendly they took photos of themselves for us and with us. Did I say ‘I love you’ to the Westlifers and ‘My Husband loves you’ to David O’Leary? Of course not.

However my top most favourite so far is this photo with Jon Bon Jovi who found himself at an event after bumping into Ronan Keating who was staying at the same hotel. As he wasn’t an expected guest then I’m going to include him in my best Random Celebrity Encounters.

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So which celebrity spot are you as good as? Let me know.

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More than all the stars in the sky and fish in the sea

The last thing I like to do every night before I go to bed is check on #1, 2 and 3. I like to make sure the covers are over them and that they’re not about to fall out of bed or sleeping in funny positions that look more contortionist than comfortable.

There are few sights more serene than that of sleeping children. Look at them all cute and cuddly in their pyjamas. Their faces all calm, their voices all quiet, their demands all attended to for the day.

They are such cherubs in repose. All three of them. All at the same time.

Do you know how rare that can be during their waking hours?

Except perhaps when they’re watching television just before bath time. All three of them glued to Disney Junior. #3 in particular has watched so much television compared to when #1 was her age when he had a daily half an hour dose of In The Night Garden and that was considered excessive by some standards.

It occurred to me recently that #3 is now the same age that #1 was when #2 arrived. #2 in turn is the same age #1 was when #3 arrived. We have three young children aged five and below. Of course it’s busy, hectic and above all else NOISY!

Every night though as I look at them sleeping, I forget how a few hours earlier #1 and 2 were resistant to sleep and announcing the need for another story and how unfair it is there isn’t one. I forget how something as innocuous as who gets to do their bedtime wee first can cause a surprise meltdown of such seismic proportions that bedtime is then propelled backwards by 15 minutes. This may not seem long to you but when you’re more than ready to wave them off to slumber, you really don’t need this to cut into your Happy Hour as Brilliant New Adventure calls it.

Sometimes it can feel like you’re working in a factory production line. Chivvying them through the motions of school runs, mealtimes, play times, bath times and bedtimes. So that by the time you close their bedroom door and you have those couple of hours to yourself with peace and quiet to enjoy it seems a shame to fill it with anything more arduous than a bit of crap television and a hot drink.

There are days when you are so busy tending to the ‘things that need doing for young children’ and their lack of cooperation in helping you do the ‘things that need doing for young children’, it’s easy to overlook in the moment they happen, the many, many things they do that are clever, funny, caring and little trinkets of parental joy I hope I can keep hold of in my memory banks.

I am at fault at often articulating the times they fight, push, shove, bite and tell tales on each other. I’m short on patience when it comes to meal times that linger on for ages and why they can’t seem to get in and out of the car in a very straightforward manner.

Why when entering the car to sit at the very back, I suddenly turn around to find one or two in the front passenger or driver’s seat. Even #3 is insisting she climbs into her own car seat by herself and then proceeds to buckle herself in. What ensues is a toddler spending five minutes unsuccessfully trying to heave herself up into her car seat and refusing any form of bum push up. I suppose I ought to admire her perseverance and independent spirit. Then when clearly she’s not going to crack the five point safety harness and I’m beyond entertaining this Baby Einstein phase, I then take matters into my own hands and grapple the safety buckle from her tiny hands, I’m met with this screaming, my ears are going to bleed banshee who then with subhuman strength arches her back making it nearly impossible to strap her in. (Same actions go for getting her into a pushchair too).

Then as suddenly as it happens, she succumbs and goes all quiet and acquiescent. (Sometimes though she’ll carry on screaming for a good few miles into the journey before forgetting what all the brouhaha was all about). This is all before I’ve even managed to haul #1 and 2 out from the front of the car to the back again. By this stage I’ve more or less forgotten where I’m meant to be going.

Of course not every day has moments like these. But in my head, I keep expecting #1, 2 and 3 to be done with feral behaviour and act with rational thought and full cooperation AT ALL TIMES and then I find myself feeling surprised and slightly bewildered when they don’t.

It’s easy to articulate moments like these which can be funny to share and also makes you feel quite a normal family when others nod in agreement and go one better. Less so do we talk about the moments when they fill you with immeasurable pride and your heart fills with so much love for them you might burst into tears.

For the days are made up of far more of these moments than we have the time to share.

It’s all in the small things.

From the moment #3 wakes up yelling from her cot to be assisted out of bed and her sleeping bag. To her grabbing her milk bottle and sitting back in her rocker and then taking the empty bottle into the kitchen. To her babbling away at you looking very earnest in what she’s saying and you none the wiser but agreeing anyway. To her at the age of almost 20 months still resting her head on your shoulder when she’s tired. An action reminiscent of her tiny baby months that #1 and 2 have long outgrown and only revisit when feeling severely distressed. I love how she loves a good dress up and often rocks around the home in a tutu or tiara. She walks up to you with bits of Playmobil in her mouth and you tell her to spit it out which she willingly obliges to in a manner worthy of Spit the Dog.

#2 confidently declares she wants to be Elsa when she grows up and actually the magical power of Disney’s Frozen has made her love being a sister. You can learn something from Disney other than waiting for your Prince to come rescue you and proceed to marry them on the same day or give up your family for a pair of legs. She has a knack of telling the wildest stories and even if she was never there or clearly can’t remember it happening, she’ll tell it in such a way that makes you quite convinced it did happen that way. She’s only three but I often forget she is only just three because she can articulate herself so well and there are times when she’s shy and uncertain of new things and all she wants is for me to be close by. She once sat in the back of the car and randomly threw her arms in the air and bursts out ‘When am I going to be four?’ And when she comes to sit by your side and declares ‘I love you’, well, it makes you pick her up and bear hug her until she commands ‘Enough’.

As I said earlier, #1 was still so little when he was given the responsibility of being Big Brother to two younger siblings. It’s a lot of responsibility to bear. There are times the power goes to his head but there’s no mistaking he does look after #2 and 3. Everything has to be fair and just in his world and if he gets something, so will the other two. Except for the times he was helping himself to secret M&Ms from the fridge on the pretext of getting himself cold water. I often wondered how children learnt to read and secretly thought it would never happen with any of mine as I had no clue how to start them off but suddenly he came home from school with his first book and now his school reading book is one of their bedtime stories.

His questioning of things in the world stretches parts of my brain I haven’t used in years searching for information long forgotten. I thought I needed to be a parent with all the answers but I don’t and it’s far more fun finding out the answers together. I love his growing sense of humour and how he tricked #2 into standing next to him before doing a smelly fart that makes her run off and retch. When I told #1 about #3 scribbling on the bed with marker pen, his first response is, ‘But where did she get the pen from?’. Translate that as ‘And whose fault is it really?’.

Every night before I go to bed and I see their sleeping faces, I am ever so thankful to have them. For these memories that are mine to keep. They may not remember them but I will, long after they are grown up. I often wish I had kept a diary long ago and wrote down all the funny things they say and do. You think you won’t forget but it’s so easily done with all the things that need doing and thought about. Perhaps I ought to start from here as children love hearing stories about themselves.

So I’m off to have a quick peek at them now before I go to bed and hope that all of them sleep until gone 7am tomorrow morning.

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Embracing 40……..With a 48 hour hangover

When did 48 hour hangovers become acceptable? Well they’re obviously not acceptable but that seems to be the standard state of play these days after a night out.

Practically lesson enough to make one stop indulging in boozy nights altogether. Though some might optimistically say the only way to combat the 48 hour hangover is to get more practice in. Others will shake their head in a knowing manner and pitying look that says ‘Yield to your ageing body and the fact it’s not going to rebound within hours like it once did’. Not the help of a post party bacon crisp buttie (possibly the brown bread combatted any healing powers) or proper chip shop fish and chips aided the recovery process.

Well at least I wasn’t alone with this feeling. If I’m going to be down for the day (or two) then best take someone along with me. Who else but the person responsible with her too kind hospitality.

Mrs Cake Pops embraced 40, nay, bear hugged 40 at the weekend with an elegant and sophisticated party at L’Aiglon Bar. (I actually thought her birthday was last November and wouldn’t believe it wasn’t until she showed me her ID card. So when I asked her back then how she was going to celebrate, it was little wonder she gave me a funny look and said she hadn’t thought about it yet which I thought was very strange for someone so organised. ‘But your birthday is next month’. ‘No, it’s not’. ‘Yes, it is’. Why would you even argue with someone over when their birthday is?) Huge bundles of silver, black and purple balloons festooned the corners of the courtyard and handmade two feet tall flower arrangements in matching colours marked out the drinks table.

I’ve come to expect nothing less from the creative abilities of Mrs Cake Pops after noticing her talents at school celebrations. First there was the cake shaped like a dragon for the class Fairy Tale party. Followed by last year’s very realistic snake cake which actually scared a number of small children. Suffice to say, I am the Mum who sent #1 empty handed into school for his first Chinese New Year party. Oh the shame. I feel like I’ve been making up for it ever since.

Quite easily you’d think she was that School Mum who breezes in with fabulous edible creations that she’s just knocked up in an afternoon and makes you want to hide your mini sausages contribution at the back. But in the short space of time that I’ve known her, I’ve seen that it’s hard work, careful thought and dedication that makes this self taught baker worthy of all the praise the results receive.

The best character trait of Mrs Cake Pops is that she will tell you, ‘You can do it too’. She will even print off the necessary tinternet pages for your perusal. Articulate a thought and she’s off suggesting ideas and ways to make it happen. She’s not taking over your project, neither is she claiming it as her own but she’s supporting you to make it happen. Empowering other people with a persuasive tone that everything is quite possible. And if it isn’t then no harm done. Let’s move on.

This is rather refreshing to come across. The world needs more women like Mrs Cake Pops. Women who help other women accompanied with a big smile on their face and a good listening ear. Way back in September when I was lamenting the loss of being in gainful employment, I mentioned I’d just met someone who would be just the right person to give you that boost back into gainful employment. This is she. It helps that she knows her way around recruitment but you can see that she has a genuine interest in helping you.

I was quite short sighted in thinking that before the start of this Singapore Adventure I had made all the friends that I would ever need. That may have been true for my life up to that point. But the ebb and flow of life is constantly changing and our needs and interests change too. To close yourself off to new friendships would deny yourself many opportunities for unforeseen good times ahead and enrich yourself with new people that you can learn so much from and feel inspired by.

Sometimes I may just feel inspired by Mrs Cake Pops from a sitting down position and content myself with watching her busy herself with her neverending To Do List whilst I sip coffee and eat biscuits. At times though I may feel the need to seek inspiration to get on with my own To Do List and I’ll know where to get it from.

So as I’ve mentioned before, Mrs Cake Pops bear hugged 40 this week. Celebrations have been ongoing for some time and it says a lot about a person that their friends will organise a surprise gathering for them when they’re only in the UK for a short while. What a lovely bunch of people. Of course I’m not surprised, I’ve only known her a short time and I find she’s ok.

When she mentioned just before her party that the colour scheme was silver, black and purple and that purple is the colour of crazy and what message would that be giving out?

Well, she’s wrong. Purple is not the colour of crazy. Purple is the colour of sensitivity and compassion, of understanding and support, of quiet tranquility and dignity, of charisma and energy. I think many people will recognise those qualities in her.

So Mrs Cake Pops, I wish you a very Happy 40th Birthday. Embrace it, bear hug it, wipe the floor clean with it. What makes 40 think you would do anything but that?

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Three months to go!

I can feel a frisson of excitement, of anticipation, of nerves at the thought of just three months to go before I turn forty! I don’t even know why because I haven’t got any plans in place to mark the occasion. Yet.

I guess it’s just the thought of the date drawing nearer, like any celebrated occasion to come.

Three months is still a long time really. It’s a whole season. A quarter of the year. But it will go by in a flash. Like most days and weeks fall into months as illustrated by endless unfinished To Do Lists and Would Like To Do Lists.

Where once Time passed us by so slowly as we yearned to be just that bit older. Old enough to go out by ourselves. To choose what we wanted to wear. To stay up late. To do whatever we wanted. Old enough just to be able To Do. Without anyone, parents mostly, telling us we can’t.

How quickly those heady days of new found freedom and independence give way to ones of responsibility and commitment. Desired of course. Be it because of partners, work or children. Whether you have some or all of these things, they give us direction that shapes our decisions to do the best we can.

With trying to do our best comes great responsibility and so much to think of. Are we doing the right thing? I don’t question every decision I make but overall I am aware that what I do affects not just myself anymore. I want to do the best for my family and I want to do the best for myself. So many things to think of and balance out and juggle around.

No one told me it would be this busy when you were old enough To Do! Even if someone did, I probably wouldn’t be listening. Same as the young never do to sage advice from wise old owls. They don’t look like they could possibly have had any fun in their lives ever! Well they did. As did we. Can you remember? It wasn’t that long ago you know.

There’s a clear picture in my mind of a scene that is highly unremarkable. It’s summertime 1996 and I’m with Elbear and a few other people. We’re sat on the grassy field in front of The Pav, our Union hang out located in the Student Village. Dusk is falling and we have nothing to do except chill out with cigarettes and alcohol because no one had mobile phones with free wifi access. I remember an overwhelming feeling of mellowness as we just while away the hours there. Carefree you’d call it.

Does it make me feel nostalgic? Of course it does and it brings a smile to my face and be thankful to have had days like these.

In blogging these last nine months about the past, I’ve also touched upon much that has happened in the present. Celebrations of the people I love, of new life, of engagements and the loss of loved ones and marriages.

Such extreme highs and lows in a relatively short space of time. Life can’t always be good but when it is, it’s great and as I get older I think I can appreciate that a lot more rather than take it for granted. I’m sort of a grown up now but I’m not quite there and I hope I never will be. If I felt like I had all the answers then I’d stop learning from others.

So just three months to go. I need to start thinking about what’s going to happen on the other side of forty. My Would Like To Do List as it were.

I’ve never had a life plan as such and what I’ve been lucky enough to do and who I’ve been able to meet has brought some good times indeed.

What should I have on my list? What would you have on your list?

Well I’m not sure I want to do a bungee jump anymore which has been lingering somewhere on an imaginary list for 20 years. I don’t think my whole body could withstand that kind of physical shock. Neither should certain body parts be subjected to defy gravity in that way. Being flung around on the roller coaster at Legoland, Malaysia caused objection enough.

There’s much to think of. Much to plan for. I’m getting that frisson of excitement, of anticipation, of nerves again!

Forty’s coming around the corner! It’s almost time to say Hello!

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Me and Our Jenn

Whenever I get asked who Our Jenn is, I find it’s not enough to simply answer she’s my cousin. I always have to add but she’s like my sister. I feel it’s important that the importance of her to me is made clear from the start.

She’s the youngest of four by a long way but when I came to live with her at an age I can’t even remember, she became Big Sister to me. So whilst I never really grew up with Big Brother Li, I do know what it’s like to grow up with someone like a sibling.

Whereas Big Brother Li takes care of things and shoulders responsiblity, Our Jenn has done the special things filled with lots of thought and love because her aim has been to make me happy.

As I sit here and think about it all, I realise how much she has done for me and perhaps I haven’t let her know just how much I’ve appreciated it.

So here’s my chance. But I have to keep it short because whenever she sees one of my posts, she goes ‘But there are so many words!’

The first influences on our young impressionable selves are going to be the older relatives in our family. The ones who can wear what they like, go places on their own, do stuff and not be the tagger alonger. That independence is what we all strive for when we’re little. I probably did cramp her style being the tagger alonger so often when she was a teenager but she took me along anyways without complaint.

Much of my 80s popular music knowledge stems from her record collection way before 80s Club Trop night at Manchester Academy. A huge Duran Duran and Madonna fan (how I wish she’d kept her 80s wardrobe), I remember all those 80s tunes blaring out the speakers when no one else was home. Our Jenn loves to boogie. Proper boogie and she’d love the disco dancing lifts at the Legoland Hotel more than anyone.

About her 80s wardrobe. No one could walk as fast in sky scraper spiky stilettos as she could. Bat wings, big hair, lace and velvet. She had it all. Yet when I was 13 and the ‘in’ cut was a jaw length inverted bob with shaved step at the back, she outright refused to let the hairdresser do it. So I got the opposite and ended up with a bob and a weird looking ledge round the back that looked like a layer had been left uncut by accident and I soon had to get it cut all one length again.

Shame she didn’t put a stop to the misguided spiral perm the following year which resulted in one big frizz and that is not so easy to rectify. Oh actually, she couldn’t stop me as she had just got married and moved far away to Newcastle.

Whilst I then got my own room, I missed her very much. Nearly nieces arrived two and four years later at a time when I was just beginning to get a taste of my own independence. It’s only now when I have children of my own that I realise I should have been there for her instead of thinking she didn’t need me when she had a family of her own to care for. Sigh.

Our Jenn loves a good surprise, perhaps that’s why I’m slightly nervous of them. When it was my Hen Do back in September 2007 and she couldn’t come, I was disappointed but understood when she said she couldn’t get the time off work. My whole Hen Weekend was a mystery until the day we left for Madrid and so when we were sat outside a cafe bar waiting for all the girls to arrive and Nana Moon went off on a covert tour to meet some of them, I didn’t think too much about it. I was full of excited nerves and anticipation as it was. Then suddenly there was Our Jenn! All the way in Spain. I’ve only ever seen her once outside of the UK and that was when we went on our only non Hong Kong family holiday to Tenerife in 1984.

I didn’t know what to say! I didn’t have a clue. I remember there was a lot of ‘Eeeeing’ going on. Not that kind of E, I’ll have you know but the Geordie kind of ‘Eee….’ when one is lost for words. Followed by a lot of ‘Manning’.

You can guess who provided all the embarrassing photos from my youth which everyone wore. Laminated no less. A practical touch in case anyone chundered on them.

Who doesn’t get embarrassed by an older sibling? All the time. From funny faces when out in public to backing my school books with pages from Smash Hits and having Billy Idol stare back at me every Geography class to the time she found out who I had a crush on in my class at school. Hideous! And when we had to stay at my other cousin’s shop with no central heating when I was very little, she’d stick her cold feet on me to warm them up. No wonder I hate feet (except small chubby baby feet). And she was the one who said there was a doll with the rotating head guarding the factory in Chester-le-Street to freak me out.

But I can live with that because she’s always there for me. From organising a minibus for our family to come down from Newcastle to Derbyshire for our wedding, to making one hundred origami boxes for said wedding. From making sure she came to my Graduation and for giving me and some friends a place to stay overnight to celebrate my 21st. Times were very different back then. For always giving me a place to stay actually whenever I came back up north.

In Chinese culture, you’re meant to leave your maiden home before heading off to get wed. I suppose it didn’t really matter at that point because I was already officially married but the night before the Chinese wedding banquet, the best place I wanted to be was with Our Jenn. To have those memories of us being on our own together before such an important day in my life is what I wanted most of all.

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I don’t know anyone who laughs as much as or as easily as Our Jenn. There’s a Chinese saying about laughing properly that goes ‘you can see their teeth but you can’t see their eyes’. Which is why you can tell her a semi funny anecdote and she’ll make you feel like it’s the funniest thing ever. I must get #1 to work his jokes on her as he’ll think he’s the best joke teller ever.

Equally she’s the soppiest person I’ve ever come across. I mean, I know I’m bad but she’s far worse. When she came to visit me in Manchester one year when Titanic was on at the pictures, I took her to see it. She sat there snivelling for nearly the last half of the film and then blames me for not warning her it was going to be sad. There was never going to be a happy ending with a film about the Titanic.

If she knows I’m sad, she’ll be sad too. In fact, it’s not just me that applies to but all who are close to her. Empathy is one of her greatest strengths. I guess that’s why she’s taken such good care of me all these years. No one can understand a family than family themselves and she gets everything. Lucky for me really to have someone share things with because it makes it easier to let go of many things that don’t make sense. It makes it ok to move on from things when someone else understands those parts too.

She’s incredibly inspirational and strong too. Sometimes life doesn’t work out how you imagine and being brave enough to make a change that will give you a chance of happiness elsewhere takes courage. In doing so and building a different life, I’ve seen her graduate from college and take up opportunities that were not available to her but were available to me when I reached that age.

She’s not so brave when it comes to spiders which is quite odd considering they don’t do anything and she loves all other animals. Horses in particular and I remember the first present I bought for her one Christmas all by myself was this £4.99 horse and cart ornament I got from the local post office/gift shop/sweet shop.

There is so much more I could share with you about me and Our Jenn but that would be far too many words. I hope you get the picture though. She’s brilliant is Our Jenn. So much more than my cousin.

It was just her birthday last week and next year is going to be a Big One too for her. If I’m not back in the UK already, I’ll make sure I’ll be back for that because nothing is going to keep me away from sharing her special day with her.

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When skies are grey

There’s a heaviness in my heart today. I hope it’s ok to say as much. But I know it’s not as heavy as some close to me.

I was going to write about something else for this post but I just don’t feel like it right now.

At first I was going to wait until I felt less heavy of heart before writing again. Then I changed my mind. In everyone’s life there are days when skies are grey and not to acknowledge that seems sort of false to me. You can’t possibly be cheery and upbeat all the time.

I think it’s much more honest to say you’re having a sad or tough day and I don’t think it’s a burden when I hear it from others. I just wish there was more I could do to help.

It’s that feeling of helplessness to ease someone else’s sorrow greater than your own which digs an empty pit inside of you. I’m sad but I know they feel it more and how many times does the person more sad try and make you feel better about it all.

Today I guess I just want to say that whilst I go about my daily business, I’m thinking of you. Such words seem so inadequate when I’ve said them out loud but I hope the thought gives you some comfort and strength.

I’m thinking of you. For those who need it today.

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Thankful for the things that don’t happen

A couple of days ago, I took #1, 2 and 3 to visit friends for an afternoon play date. We parked in the outdoor visitors parking bay just a few steps from where they lived. As I was gathering children and bags together, I heard the security guards shout something and then an almighty thud just behind us and felt a slight impact.

A branch from the tree just a car space away had fallen down from up above.

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I turned around to see that we had been brushed by the outer branches with the heavier part landing right in between #1 and 2.

I don’t want to make it out to be anything other than what it was. We missed being hit by a falling branch by seconds. An awful accident could have happened. But it didn’t.

There’s something to be said about when a small child falls over and we shouldn’t make a big fuss of it if they’re not hurt because if you do then you’re just going to make them react accordingly.

There was a group of five people stood a car space to the other side who heard and saw what happened but didn’t bat an eyelid and carried on their conversation. So I guess because neither #1, 2 or myself were hurt, I just hugged #2 to soothe her tears, picked up our bag, got #3 out of the car and carried on with what we were doing.

I’m quite sure that had someone rushed over and made a big fuss over what could have happened had we been stood just a few inches in the wrong way, I might have felt more shaken up immediately. As it happens I probably was in a bit of shock at the time.

It was only when I got home and could tell Husband about what happened and how narrowly we escaped some degree of injury that I could tell myself just how lucky we had been.

A branch from a tree fell down right beside us but didn’t hit any of us. It could have done. But it didn’t. Just one second of time can make all the difference.

I find that thought quite amazing. The things that happen and don’t happen. The decision to move this way or that. The choice of infinite options leading to infinite outcomes but only following one.

How many times have I bumped into someone by happy coincidence and thought about how I wouldn’t have done because I was going to go that way instead.

Things like a branch falling from a tree is an act of nature.

People driving like idiots is not. I’m in the car a lot most days doing school runs and ferrying children here and there. Perhaps it’s because I’m in the car more frequently than I have ever been that I seem to notice dangerous, irresponsible and arrogant driving more than before.

Or perhaps it’s because I have small children in the car that makes me so rageful when the idiocy of other people behind the wheel puts the lives of my children at risk. The way cars cut in, weaving in and out of lanes, drive too fast, taxis stopping suddenly for a fare. Every one of these actions causes a reaction.

Thankfully most do react in time. I’ve seen countless accidents avoided on many occasion. Most drivers are oblivious. It makes me so mad when I’ve had to slam on brakes because some nob has changed lanes without indicating.

I’m mad not because I think I’m a better driver. I’m mad because I felt fear. Whenever I honk my car horn which never gets across how I truly feel, I’m telling you, ‘How f-ing dare you put the lives of others at risk like that’.

I may sound overly dramatic but it is quite true that a split second makes all the difference.

Sometimes it really is down to chance and sometimes it’s down to the chances we take.

So I’m thankful for the things that don’t happen. Goodness knows how many times that may have been or will be but I am truly thankful for all of them.

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