On the mama-margins

I share your chin-strokes over growth-spurts, school choices, and ridiculous tantrums best ignored, but less so your anxiety over balancing career with children.

The gender-heavy aisle division of toys and clothes arches my brow, too; but I don’t think about it for very long.

I’m a mother, but identify more with being a parent.

I covet your homemade cakes, but there’s not a snowball’s (mmmm..snowballs) chance in hell I’ll get round to baking one.

I, too, feel my identity under attack, but more for reasons of rootlessness than feeling arrested.

For every on-line high-five exchanged between you, I have a momentary awkward hover over the ‘like’ button out of a weird sense of manners.

My child is tall. She has deep brown eyes, a thousand yard stare, and long fly-away hair that grows at a rate of an acre an hour. That’s probably as far as I can go public with a visual of her.

Being fortunate to have a child has affected me profoundly also. I can frequently be found looking through every photo of her from birth but the feelings are bigger than the vocabulary available to me, and I’ve given up the search for it.

My guilt is mainly the retrospective kind; the futile sort. It hits when I think of the state of my savings and former life-long propensity for living-in-the-moment that risks threatening the quality of rainy days.

They say fluency in any language comes with practice. I’ve never had a flair for any; it took me a year to master broken parenting, and I read it better than I speak it. I’ve plateaued at reasonable working proficiency but doubt I’ll ever hold my own with the natives, no matter how welcoming and friendly they are.

Retracebook

Minimised in the corner of this screen is a portal to the past in the shape of a photograph. It is of a teenage boy averting his gaze from his dancing partner to somewhere off camera as they shuffle awkwardly in their finery at their prom. Or debs. Or tracey. Or sharon. It scratches at my peripheral vision and I am compelled to open it again, study it, minimise, maximise, minimise. Its sender tells me the boy now shares his life with a woman in America, and has a teenage boy of his own with another.

The determination to stay social networking sober does not guarantee immunity from passive snooping. One click on a teasing email subject and I’m staring my past right in the spotty face.

Closer inspection reveals his partner as the one who replaced me. It was inevitable. A careless kiss with another would see to it that I had killed it as far as he was concerned. Our two years together survived parental interference brought on by intervention from the nuns brought on from the curiosity brought on by the early morning shadow that passed their windows. He would ease his way back out of my bedroom window at dawn, cross the field, and cut through the convent grounds before jumping behind the wall and in through his own. Huddled innocently together on my bed, we compared the size of our hands and lay still against the backdrop of quarrelling parents, bickering siblings and the Big Ben bells at 10 on the telly. The strip of light disappearing from beneath the door at midnight signalling the end of family strife.

The mattress replaced the steps by the parochial house where we sat after school. Right under the nose of those collared conquerors of passion. A daily ritual forged after a summer’s eyeballing on the Green from opposing teams in a season long game of rounders. We had already engaged in a heady exchange of compilation tapes, the intensity of commitment measured by the frequency of shared folks songs ‘with meaning’ (me), and power ballads and rock anthems (he). He was fourteen, quiet, with a fondness for all the wrong music, and Charles Bronson films. I was a year younger with a taste for colourful shoes, and my head (and sometimes my hair) in the clouds. Both of us about to find the other in the shape of our first love.

[several paragraphs later]

And then I emerged from my mother’s womb, totally naked. The shame.

The beginning.

Thanks Facebook. You are to the soul what Peppa Pig is to psychoanalysis.

I’ll fresco if al have to

Jean Byrne, why have you forsaken me? I’m not talking about your fondness for luminous yellow or those accessories manufactured in NASA’s spare parts department (all of which give me a serious Jean-on). All it takes is you reporting a spate of bad mood burglaries by the sun across the South-east and there’s a stampede towards Boots to replenish the fake tan supplies.

And it’s only beginning, the force-feeding me happiness. “Isn’t the weather great?” delivered ad nauseam in the vocal equivalent of three thousand exclamation marks in font size 90, caps lock on. A challenge to the likes of me who shares a facial expression range with Van Morrison on a night out at a comedy club.

Ordinarily, when the temp numbers go double, I barricade myself in the house and wait patiently to swear at the first eager neighbour  unable to resist digging out his lawnmower. Usually after he’s done with that other popular outdoor activity – smoking. There he is at his backdoor, post-meat ‘n’ veg Lambert and Butler in one hand, hip in the other, surveying the lawn, and the compulsion hits. Even better if it’s nine at night. If it’s OK for the ice-cream van to come playing the theme from Match of the Day, it’s OK for him to rev up his pneumatic grass-cutter. 

This year would’ve been no exception had we not endured one of those visits from friends that will have me lying about being the outdoor type for the remainder of the season. The anxiety usually begins at the biscuit aisle in M&S (height of sophistication round our way), and ends with their premature departure following one crying session too many from their wee one following the umpteenth encounter with our wee one. Halfway up an Ikea tunnel on a tiled floor, as their parents strain to discuss the merits of pre-school programmes, one woman hoping the other hasn’t noticed her one has been enjoying unfettered access to chocolate fingers. But the evidence is everywhere.

So that’s it. From here in, it’s the communal neutral green grass cushioned park. No polite restraint when our children are pulling one another’s limbs off. No no intervening and passive parenting before swiftly feigning concern when the cup has already been knocked over just because they’re having a coronary. And no post-visit grazing on the sickening collection of buns they brought. The same ones that wouldn’t ever meet M&S socialising standards. I’d say it’ll be safe to suggest a dander to the ice-cream van though. Every sun-split cloud and all that.

My 1st abandoned post

Title: “Too many protest singers, not enough protest songs”

Theme: Decline of the protest song in popular music.

Inspired by: Recent elections, political apathy, the corresponding rise of the insidious ‘play list’ dictated by 20 and 30 something taste-making slaves to brand bland, uniform devotion to Converse, and the focus group.

The main point: Contemporary music can be charted along a number of defining political epochs. It was about creating a sound and a look that was new within the context of a strong feeling that the world was somehow being changed and that something radical was happening. That’s over. I don’t want it to be, but it is.

Evidence:

Past (with a few still present): Billie Holiday, Pete Seeger, Woodie Guthrie, Dylan, Joan Baez, Patti Smith, Nina Simone, Bob Marley, Punk, Billy Bragg, Springsteen, Neil Young, Ani DiFranco, Manu Chao etc. etc.

Present: Pussy Riot

The title of the abandoned post is a line taken from a song by the illustrious Edwyn Collins. Girl Like You’ was released in 1994. A trawl from that year reveals one song aspiring to protest status: Zombie by The Cranberries. I’ll let you draw your own conclusion on that fantasy.

Conclusion: Political conscientiousness and angry protest music has been hi-jacked by tofu-chewing multi-millionaire best mates of the G8 and dumbed down to a lazy ringtone. The traditional fight for justice among the musical fraternity has, more or less, been reduced to the wearing of a poxy wristband. Every second a brain is desensitised by a Mumford & Son song *claps hands* There goes another.

Reason for abandonment: I live in a time when delicate irony is contemplated over coffee so *sips* I was unable to whip myself into enough of a frenzy. The needle returns to the start of the PJ Harvey album and we all stroke our chins like before.

What to give the man who has everything?

What do you give the man who has it all?

The wife and kids

The lovely home

The successful job

The healthy parents

The many friends

The 10k personal best

The everything he’s lived for

The youth on his side

The second house a mile from his first

The halfway from heartache

The rental agreement

The kids two nights a week

The emotional disorder

The stranger for a wife

The impending separation

The unlonged for silence

The science of new appliances

The both sides of the bed

The 10 month personal worst

The healthy parents

The many friends

The sanctuary of work

The strength on his side

The everything to live for

The new world order

The halfway to a new beginning

Very little, I suppose.

Just an assurance that you’ll keep pace

With him till he gets there

Where we’ll all be waiting.