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Thursday, 20 November 2014

A thump, a bump and a bang.

Nell fell in Spain. Went down like a sack of spuds outside the bullring in July. Mary had a crash with a car  three weeks ago and last night, having gone to bed early with a monumental pain behind the eyes having drunk a litre of apple and ginger juice with fizzy mineral water and spinach soup to boost my vitamin d, I get up for a wee at 4am. As I walk with intention back to my big bed still so, so tired with a pain I've never experienced before in my head, I walked straight into the door frame. I heard a crack, split my nose and feeling warm stickiness on my face, I go downstairs to sort myself out. Aloe Vera and witch hazel, 2 x 500gms of paracetamol and an ice cube in tissue held against my face, I return to bed. It slightly amused me (but I am a bit odd) and I questioned how in God's name I managed to do it. Fucking eejit.

That'll do now. That's three wallops for my family. We get the message. LOUD AND CLEAR.

Slow down, open your eyes and keep your head up.

I turned to Mary in the car this morning having skipped the ritual of foundation and powder to mask my ever increasing dark circles and wrinkles so deep, they tell a thousand tales and said,
"I really AM hideous looking now aren't I darling?"

She smiled in a sweet, little girl way and cautiously nodded. Serves me right I thought. I have always told them that it doesn't matter what you look like, it's what's inside that counts. That'll learn me.

I put on my big, dark glasses and asked, "How's that?"
She shook her head, "That's worse".
I wrapped a scarf around my face like a slipped turban and said, "Now?"
She laughed. So did I.

Nothing like a bang to the head to remind you how lucky we are to be alive..

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


It was alright in the morning. In the darkest hours of night, things always seem much worse, more worrying, annoyingly keeping me awake but then I slept, finally. When I crept back up the stairs at almost 4am, I woke him. I needed to hear his voice and feel him hug me. He was unaware of my worries. We talked and I explained why. Although my 'why' isn't usual. It's a crazy concept that in my forties, I am trying to justify the insecurity of why I work well, perhaps better on my own. The rest of the world seems to thrive in company, as a group, a family, an ensemble. Not me. I seem to achieve more and worry less when it is just me. Girls grow up longing for Prince Charming and waiting impatiently for their Happy Ever After. Living the dream of togetherness and creating a family nest. I simply struggle to share my space with anyone other than my children, dogs and cats. It's just the way it is. Until now.. I am forcing myself to go beyond what I usually consider as an impossibility for me because I know that this is it. I am pushing my boundaries but my default is set. I am failing to be what I so want to be. I know the answer, but I am struggling to work out the way to reach it.

Another holdall has been filled and returned here. I can see it on the sitting room floor. The poor man (my friend was right) was probably unsure of when and where to put it. I should have hugged him as he returned and carried his bag upstairs. I was too busy shouting at Nell for being an insolent teenager  at only age 9. Boy does she push me sometimes. She got out of the bath and almost pushed me out of the way so she could flounce down the stairs back to her beloved television. I stopped her. I asked, "What's up? Why the attitude?" and she looked at me with hurt and confusion and replied, "Is he moving in? Were you even going to ask us?"

I don't know what I was thinking. I know that I wasn't thinking. Since Mary had her crash, my world has been turned upside down and I have lost all stability and certainty. It's a horrible feeling. I want to hold my children tight all day long and stay huddled together on the sofa. But I can't. I am jumpy and out of focus. I feel old and tired. I am completely out of sync with everyone around me and I feel lonely.

I don't know how to reassure my girls that taking a chance is good. I am more certain that I have ever been and I want them to feel safe and loved. They felt safe and loved before I met him again though. Things change all the time. We all juggle priorities and make space for new opportunities even when we are unaware of them coming our way. This is a big deal. To all of us. I shouldn't pretend that it isn't but it's a good thing. I am certain of that. When I start doubting my ability to remain centred, my family follow suit and we all lose track. I need to get back. I have to be on it. I cannot float.

We have talked. First it was the girls and I as we sat together. I explained that the sudden shift in living space had been a surprise to me too so I reassured them and explained that it hadn't been expected. Not yet. I suggested that it may change in time but that it wouldn't be for a while. Gradual, steady and calm. They seemed better. Nell wasn't angry and tried her luck by asking for an iPad so I suggested half an hour of American crap on the telly as a compromise which she grabbed with a smile. Mary wasn't bothered in the slightest it seemed. I am worried about her. Her voice, the sound of it, is different. I can hear a change. She talks in a different way. And she is bad tempered. Not with anyone else it seems, just me sadly. It is as though I have let her down. Truth is, I did. Then he and I talked. I listened I'm just not sure I heard. I think I did. He loves me. Thank God for that.

Mary bumped her head right on top of the fracture last night against her bedroom wall. She went white. She felt sleepy. It was almost half eight and I didn't know what to do. I let her sleep. I checked her throughout the night constantly hoping that the haematoma from her crash had gone by now and that she wouldn't get sick again. She woke up late this morning. She is still very pale. She wouldn't eat breakfast and she is grumpy. I offered for her to have a friend for tea because Nell who is so unhappy at school has someone coming to play today and she seemed a little better. Mary smiled at her friend and I sighed with mild relief. As I bent to kiss her goodbye in the line in the playground, she looked at me and with a very loud, clear voice that I didn't recognise said, "You look hideous".

Added a few hours later..

I have questioned all morning how my child can tell me that I look "hideous" or more to the point WHY. Mostly, I was amazed by the capacity to which it had upset me and effected me so much. I came to the conclusion that it was because the simple truth was, I felt hideous.  I have felt pretty hideous since the summer. Sine, in fact, Nell had her turn in Spain and I felt suddenly so out of control of being in charge of them both. It dawned on me that as much as I do, as hard as I try and as often as I help to keep them safe and sound, the world is not predictable and the unexpected can happen. Even to us. I cannot protect them from everything. I can, however, do my best which includes looking after me which I haven't done since August. Popping on a plane isn't general maintenance, it is crucial necessity to keep me alive. I want quality of life now.

I have plucked my eyebrows. I have put on some intense moisturiser 'for a lift'. I have booked myself in for a toner to brighten my dullest of dull hair and I bought a new jumper. I have also booked myself in for an intense 'lines around the eye' treatment next week. I have decided that at 43 years old, I need to help myself if I want to feel better. I am not blessed with natural prettiness but I am healthy and fit. It is time for a good life, a happier life and I am jolly well going to embrace it and ensure that it happens. Now, where is that best foot? I put to put it forward.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Got the message.

So I get a text message. The fire was lit, the curtains drawn, the girls and I were tucked in and under blankets watching Children in Need.

"I've left. I'm on my way". I looked at the message and the world felt still. I replied.
"For tonight?" and waited.
"For good".

My friend breathed in a loud gasp of air when I rang her.
"I didn't exactly mean for him to walk like now.." I told her in a mild panic. My Friday night of calm and snugness was over. I stood up, re-filled my wine glass and failed to answer a single question flying around in my head.

"You have defied the odds" she stated.
"How come?" I asked, not knowing at all.
"He has left his wife for you".
"No he hasn't" I replied truthfully, "He has left his wife for himself. They have been separated for months. He simply hadn't moved out"
"This is huge" she continued, "The poor man.."
"How so?" I questioned feeling slightly wounded.
"He has just left his family".

When it's put like that, it's tough to hear. I am uber sensitive and I never want anyone in the world (even the bad people) to feel sad or excluded. I have waited my entire life to feel happy and like I belong. I had got there. By chance, we had re-met and connected at a time in his life when the days of his marriage were unravelling like a ball of wool. But I never intended for anyone to feel sad. Especially not me.

He walked through the door an hour later with 4 un-ironed shirts, a holdall and a massive guilt trip. He explained that he couldn't take it anymore and that he had decided to leave. It turned out that she had prompted the conversation and suggested that he go. When he replied, "I'll go next weekend" she had responded with, "Why wait until then?"

Strictly speaking, he didn't decide to leave. She decided for him. Either way I should be happier. I'm not. I am worried sick that my flaws and weaknesses will show too soon. I am worried that my children will be worried. I am scared that I won't be able to share my home, my life and my space with another grown adult. I have never succeeded before. I am worried that I am wide awake and he is fast asleep in my bed, our bed and he is completely unaware of how I feel. I am sitting by candlelight feeling disloyal to him for writing this and to my children for breaking a promise. Because I know that when Nell looked at me yesterday, in her eyes she was questioning my truth. I promised them both after The Builder had shouted at me and slammed the door for the very last time, I promised them that it would only be us from then on. Just us three. And now it isn't.

There has been no discussion about what happens now. We haven't sat down like grown ups and discussed where we go from here.  I know that his priorities are correct and in the right working order. I am terrified that the guilt trip he brought with him has been off loaded onto me. I am carrying such a burden now that I cannot remember my legs feeling this heavy. We went to the pub for an hour so (I had hoped) we could talk about a few things. We didn't. Others talked and teased. The joke, it seems, is still on me for allowing my daughter to play outside without wrapping her in bubblewrap. Could a mother feel any more guilty? Add to that already monumental guilt, the worry of what sharing my life with this man might do to my children if it goes wrong and that is where I am. Is it worth the risk? Is it ever worth the risk? Chances are, it won't be easy. That's fine. I understand that Life isn't easy but what if by allowing myself a chance of happiness with a man I love (and who loves me, really loves me) turns out to be another mistake? I'm not sure how many times I can recover. Or is it that I am already so broken that I may as well have another crack?

I'll feel better in the morning. I should sleep on it. Trouble is, I can't sleep.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Always look.

On the bright side of Life. The looks that I saw as critical and judgmental days following Mary's accident seemed different on Wednesday when we walked into the school playground. My eyes filled with tears as I saw her class mates beam with delight seeing her in her uniform and carrying her rucksack. "Are you back?" shouted one
"YES!" said another doing the arm pump action that our little ones have taken on as part of their diction. I'm a big fan of this. Usually I do it with a "Get in!" but I'm not allowed to do it in public. Strict orders from Nell. "Only at home Mummy Pleeeease" Same rules it seems as our random family bouts of dancing. They are never planned or scheduled like an unnecessary mandarin lesson or triathlon practise. We are much more absurd. We 'you tube' and we get down and shake some bootie. I will never ever stop either. Not now.

The parents that were delivering their little cherubs to school on Wednesday looked at me with what I can only describe as relief. Relief and love. That is how I saw it. I interpreted the looks as ones of fondness and care rather than criticism and horror. Fascinating how in a few days I see the whole incident differently.

The sun has made a temporary appearance and it is, what I would call, a lovely afternoon. It has poured with rain all morning soaking the village and causing a flood outside the house. But right now, the sun is out. It is so important that we see things are they truly are not how they seem or might be. The world is a good place and people, in general, are softer than their harsh outer shell lets on. I am complete mush for example yet I am seen as a tough woman with the ability to fight a battle single-handedly. Truth? I am softer than most but I am so frightened of being a failure that I push myself to be strong. I have learned since Mary's accident that it is okay to admit fault. I am able to see myself as a twerp and smile. I don't need to run to stay fit. I don't need to be early to be punctual. I don't need to hold in the tears to be brave. I am perfectly entitled to be real. And I am allowed to sing even if I can't and dance as often as my legs will allow.

Mary's teacher met me outside the school office today when I collected her after her half day and when I asked if her morning had been okay he replied, "I'm afraid I had to tell her off". Mary scuffed her shoes on the floor and looked down.
"Oh" I replied, "I'm sorry that she was naughty. Mary?" I tried, "Why were you naughty?" and she shrugged her shoulders. I smiled at her teacher who I respect hugely and said,
"I guess she's getting better?"

"Have a lovely weekend" he smiled back at me.

BOOM. I say Grab it, try it and kick it in the bollocks. With Love, of course.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Just me?

I feel so alone. Don't get me wrong, I feel so grateful that my little girl wasn't hurt more than she was and I keep having thoughts of 'what if' but I feel that I am standing here on my own with the invisible fingers pointing at me saying, "That's her. The mother that let her daughter play outside on her own without a crash hat on". No one has actually said that. A few have admitted that their children go hatless on their bikes outside their homes. I saw the children of the driver of the car without head gear last weekend and I smiled. I was surprised but I smiled. It isn't what people are doing, aren't doing, have or haven't said that makes me feel so awful. It's the ones that I expected, I had hoped would come to us and hug me but haven't. It's the faces of the neighbours that I see that have said a simple, "Hello" but nothing else. It is the fact that last Sunday night when we were back home and I was so shocked by the accident that I felt so abandoned. The house was so quiet. It is the fact that however much I sleep, I am so completely shattered. I am tired. More tired than ever before.

I am told that my reaction is normal. How do any of us know, really know what reaction is normal. A week ago I was in the hospital and my baby girl was sleeping. At 7am she was checked for the final time by an amazing nurse called 'Mary' who we will probably never see again. Mary became a friend to us before midnight. By 3am she was calling my little girl, 'Sweetheart' and me 'my love'. She had been nursing for 42 years. She said that she knew nothing else. I wish I knew a little of what she knew because she was amazing. She wasn't worried about my Mary. I asked her at 4am if my little girl was going to be okay. I asked her straight, "Is there any chance of deterioration now?" and she looked at me, smiled with loving reassurance and shook her head.

I asked the doctor following Mary's CT scan and that showed the fracture and haematoma. "Is she going to die?" The man who had dropped everything to be there for me at A&E put his arm around my shoulders and said "Rose! Oh my God" as if I had asked the most ridiculous question. But I had to know. I still wanted to know if the child they carried out of my house on a bodyboard was going to be okay. I am certain only mothers will truly understand my blunt question.

"As certain as I can be" was her response. But that still didn't stop me worrying all night long. It should have but it didn't.

I shouldn't be worrying now. I shouldn't be checking her in the night but I am. You hear stories. You hear of real tragedies that involve families that are heart-breaking. I don't want to be in that story.

I am leaving my little girl today to take her sister to London to see the poppies. Mary's father is coming to look after her and it is true to say that I will shit myself the entire time I am standing on our cities streets. It won't stop me buying a cup of coffee, each of them a new pair of converse and no doubt myself a pair of unnecessary knickers or a new white t shirt but I will worry constantly until I hold her again. I think all mothers do. I know I do.

I have craved all my life for someone to have my back. I have prayed and longed for someone, preferably tall and handsome, to walk into my life and take care of me. I have wished upon a star for the answer to my singleness and then I found it. He walked back into my life in June. He has made sense of every question I have ever asked and helped me resolve each puzzle that has come my way.

So why am I here alone? Why do I feel so completely distraught that I am still frightened by what happened? Why is my bed empty when I turn in the night for a hug?

The Love of my Life. It's my children. My children are my life. They complete me. That'll do.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Hold my hand.

One week on and I am sitting back at my desk in the early hours of the morning looking at the same view with a different outlook. How so? It clearly takes something as horrific as my daughter being hit by a car for me to really understand that life doesn't need to be so full, so busy, so fast. Unbelievably, I have taken my foot off the pedal. For real. Not a frenetic moment. No hectic tidying. No frantic organising. I simply let it ride.

I have never been one to be idle. I don't curl up under a blanket and watch telly. I don't lie in bed past dawn and if I do, it's been something that I can truthfully say made me uncomfortable. I tend to go at it with my list of jobs and tick them off mentally feeling an inner achievement or (usually) disappointment that I didn't do better. I am hard on myself and therefore others. I am often left standing alone. I have created a life where few feel comfortable to join me yet this week many more than I ever expected have dropped by. I have loved it. Each face looking relieved when Mary comes to the door and often with their children who I suddenly see in such a different light. Truthfully, I have never been happier to see life in so many faces, in so many expressions and in such love and care for my family. I am over-whelmed by it. It's new to me but I am embracing it. Thank you.

My week has been slow. We started home schooling on Tuesday and flew through the maths sheet. It was me who asked for 'break' so I could make a coffee and clear my head of arithmetic. These kids today are phenomenal. Mary is only 7 and her ability to add, multiply, explain her thought process is something I envy. She corrected me twice. Nell had a french test on Thursday. The weather. Easy enough I thought but as I looked through the sheet and saw 'fairly cloudy', 'often stormy' and 'a little foggy' I had to refer to the written english before I started to teach her. I drilled her like the old fashioned way and I made all sorts of noises to aid memory of words like 'Bad' and 'Windy' to their huge amusement.
"Mummy, My teacher won't make a fart noise like that to say it is windy" she declared.
"He might" I replied, "By mistake".

Mary and I took Wednesday off because she was tired. She watched telly and slept. Yesterday we did nature studies (gardening), home economics (cooking and cleaning) and creative design (she made a house out of a cardboard box). Today we are taking the dogs to the vet for a booster and then home for some real english from school. I am excited. I love teaching her. She thinks I am rubbish compared to Mr Green, her teacher, who I am delighted to report, she misses as much as her formal education and her classmates. For Mary to miss school, it is the most wonderful achievement in the world. She misses her bike too. She tells me it is her favourite thing EVER and that in 6 weeks to the day, she is going outside on it until it is dark.

"What will people say Mummy, when they see me on my bike again?" she asked at bedtime last night with worry..
"Nothing" I replied, "They will all cheer. As will I".

We're back. All three of us. Just us three. We have laughed and joked and fought and cried so much this week. I found myself telling off the patient the night before last for being careless and inconsiderate of her sisters feelings.

"You are SO annoying Mary" I said to her, "Thank God" and smiled with tears in my eyes.

To each and everyone of us out there, Just for today, Hold someones hand a little longer, a little tighter.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Taking Responsibility.

I smile as I wrote the title. It seems that being responsible is my main job. I so wish it wasn't. It is why I escape as often as I can, go away, hit the road, run to the hills, stand on a beach and love driving to the airport. To escape. Not from my reality or the fact that I am a grown up but to relieve myself from the pressure that sometimes, often, is simply too much. This is too much.

Picture the scene. A blue sky, a crisp October morning and the kitchen extension almost finished. I was standing at my kitchen sink (ceramic, white) looking out of the window barefoot in a vest and a pair of pyjama bottoms. Washing was done, coffee in mug, dogs were happily fed and watered, Nell at a sleepover, the radio sang to me and Mary up and at it on her bike. As she always is on a day when there is no school. We have a rule. We have a few family rules but due to a recent disappearance into a friends back garden for over an hour, we have a new rule. Mary has to come and tell me where she's playing. So she did. Rather than go and play with her friend, she ran back into the kitchen to tell me that she off down the track on her bike. Before I could stop her, shouting, "NO! Put your wellingtons on first please" she had gone. I remember hearing, "No Mummy, they're waiting". Off she went out the gate to catch up. Funny how I can picture exactly what she did even without seeing it. She will have swung her right leg over her BMX saddle as she pushed herself along with the other foot. She will have stood up on her pedals to gain speed. Bottom off the saddle and head up. Without thinking for a milli second that today was any different to any other day, she will have gone around the corner.

I can barely write the story. I'm not sure that I should. It makes me feel physically sick. My heart is thumping.

Screaming from a hysterical woman running through my rusty garden gate makes me drop my coffee cup. "It's Mary" she yells at me with ashen skin and wide eyes, "We've hit Mary". What follows is a blur but when I get to the scene, I see my daughter in the arms of a neighbour. The only way I can describe it is, she looks petrified. I grab her carefully half hearing the word 'ambulance' and take her into the kitchen. She cannot stand. Nothing looks immediately broken except her eyes aren't right. The man who picked her up calls an ambulance. He is solid, calm, practical and I do not hesitate to answer every question he relays from 999. He's 24 years old and shows more maturity than many men twice his age. I'm not dressed. I'm trying to calm the woman who was the passenger of the car that hit my daughter. The driver doesn't come anywhere near us. Shock, I am told. You're not wrong. Together the woman and I try and keep Mary still.
"Mummy, I can't see" and I knew then in the pit of my stomach that she has been hit on the head.
Out of 4 witnesses no one saw her hit her head. "She catapulted through the air like a rag doll" was what I was told. I have been told various things since but it's the initial lines that I believe.
"I thought we'd killed her" was another.

Paramedics, police and a day and a night in the JR, Oxford with a CT scan that I pushed for showing a fractured skull. My legs nearly gave way when the words, "Can we talk to you about the scan?" called me from her hospital bed 7 hours after the accident. The original doctor asked me in her first examination the question that many have thought and only a few dared raise, "Why wasn't she wearing a helmet?"
I couldn't answer.

I will live with that for the rest of my life.

I should have answered "Because even now after the horrors of friday, I don't believe in wrapping my children in cotton wool. I believe that kids should climb trees, made muds pies, pull wheelies on their bikes and take a few risks".
I live in a village and I want our children to play outside. It should be safe. It should be normal. Mary learnt a very valuable lesson which breaks my heart. You cannot ever presume that your home, even just around the corner is safe. But it should be.

It was an accident. The family that hit Mary (or rather as one witness declared "Mary hit them"- extraordinary thing to say) feel dreadful. Of course. No adult ever wants to hurt a child. Not like that. Mary didn't stop to look. She presumed, as she has done every day for 4 years that danger wasn't on her doorstep. If Only, Why and Maybe..

I have now wrapped Mary in cotton wool so tightly that the poor child cannot breathe without me holding her hand. She turned to me in hospital and in the quietest voice I have ever heard from my mouse said, "I'm sorry Mummy". I couldn't breathe. She will mend. She has a 6 week recovery ahead for the fracture to knit back together and before any secondary bump won't cause damage.

Would I change it? Of course I would. I would have forced wellington boots on her feet which meant the car would have gone past. I would have strapped a helmet and a back protector made of bubblewrap to her before she whizzed off to play outside. I would have slept and extra hour preventing the entire episode from happening. I would have sent her on a sleepover the night before. I would remove the parked cars which meant she (nor the driver) could see an accident about to happen. I would have asked the driver to leave for Legoland 5 minutes earlier. I would stop people looking at me as though I was an evil bitch with no brain. I would listen to a simple, "I'm so sorry" which is yet to be said. We all make mistakes. No one is perfect. The doctors should have scanned her immediately and I shouldn't have let her go out to play without a helmet. But what sort of life would it be without risk?

I am responsible for my children. I am responsible for making sure they are happy, fed and looked after properly. I am responsible. Why is it so difficult for others to take responsibility too? Please don't judge until you know the facts. Mary is such a free spirited child that I will never tame her. Not fully. I want her unique character to be the reason she excels through life with such energy and passion. I want her to be safe obviously but I want her to try. I can protect her from most things but we all need to Stop, Look and Listen for the safety of the future generations. It was a genuine accident. The car was travelling at a low speed. I hold no one to blame but myself. But there is no fight to be had from a child with a car. Please, all of us, Mary included, SLOW DOWN.

Mary has already asked if she is allowed to go on her bike. I don't need to tell you the answer. She was lucky. I am so grateful that my baby is quick because when she saw the car, she turned her handlebars sharp enough to flip her on impact rather than throw her. The crack on her head is at the bottom of her skull. Just beneath where her helmet might have been. The report gives me facts of what happened and why. They know the speed of the car from photographs. They know why it happened. The hospital say a helmet would have certainly protected her head from such an injury but they said also that it wouldn't have stopped the impact. The car was coming. It could have been so much worse.

Life is for living. Thank God.

A short movie of Mary aged 3 on her very first attempt at bike riding. She is a natural.