Time Travelling…

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I found a letter I wrote myself in the year 2000 today. In clearing out some old stuff, I found a ‘millennium capsule letter’ that I so clearly remember a few of us making! The letter was to me at 30, so technically, I’m nearly 2 years late in finding it! I was 15 at the time, and some of the references are very dated, but it was a nostalgic read, and I think my teenage self would at least be pleased with where life took us! This letter was supposed to be about ‘what was going on in my world at the time’.

I would just like a quick disclaimer at this point to say that I have copied out the letter as close to how I scribbled it out and I apologise for my 15 year old self quoting ‘haha’ so much, must be a nervous teenage thing, I definitely didn’t find that many things comical..! Although it is interesting to see how much detail I go into about the recent crime news, in fact I think there’s a few indicators of where I was headed in life in the below! There were a few other letters in the time capsule about family and friends, and maybe I’ll add a few of the others here in the future. I’m certainly saving them all so that when our daughters reach 15, I’ll suggest they do the same and give them mine (as a warning to not add so many haha’s if nothing else..!). My plan is to now, in the run up to my 32nd birthday, write an updated version of that to add to have a look at again when I’m 45 (or 47 if I forget for a couple of years!), a little look back every 15 years with a few little artefacts to take me right back to a certain point in time, and after having two beautiful little girls, what better time to travel back to!

 

“Hello me! That’s weird, I’ll be a grown up when I next read this (unless I read this in a few days and then lose it) I’m 15 at the moment, about to turn 16, I’m going to the Orient Rendevous for dinner and going to see Saturday Night Fever in the West End which is exciting. I LOVE theatre SOOOO much. I’m hoping to see Scream 3 as well as that’s out just near my birthday which is AWESOME!

I don’t really know what I should write in something like this! The Prime Minister is Tony Blair, and the Queen is the Queen, haha! She’s Elizabeth II. Westlife are number one I think, they’d had a dream for weeks now it seems, maybe they’ll still be number one when I read this back in 2015. 2015!! It sounds so futuristic, it’s when Back to The Future is…in the future.

Where will I be in 2015? Hopefully in love, with a great sex life haha! I’ll be 30, OH MY GOD THIRTY! I might have kids. I hope I have a really cool job, in theatre, or in a hospital as a surgeon maybe, Dr Lade! Haha!

What’s going on at the moment? (I’m just reading the list of questions from our prompt sheet haha!) Well…Harold Shipman will probably still be in prison (if he’s still alive, they all seem to top themselves in prison these days) after being found guilty of murdering FIFTEEN patients in the 90’s the other day, it’ll be interesting if he’s still remembered in the future, hopefully there won’t have been so many more horrific crimes that his will seem irrelevant, hopefully he’ll still be one of the most prolific ones. Women reached the South Pole so 2000 is already off to a great start HOORAY! I’d love to go on a big expedition like that. Although at this point I’d settle for leaving the house and not going to the hospital. Oh yeah THE BIG ELEPHANT IN THE 2000 ROOM. I got diagnosed with epilepsy last year and they’re still trying to sort my medication out because before they were concentrating more on accusing me of being a druggie or trying to send me to asylums FUN! Maybe that’s what I’ll do in the future, I’ll cure epilepsy, and send my school teachers to a drug addict asylum haha! Oh ALSO, as no one else seems to know this, the second line in Wamdue Project’s song is ‘Must be the reason why I’m free in my trapped soul’, not ‘free in my trestle’ like SOMEONE said. 1) trestle makes no sense and 2) I used 888 on Teletext when it was on TOTP so HA!

My predictions for the year 2015? Errrrrr….probably some old people who are currently alive now will be dead (RIP!). More babies will be born, maybe a couple of mine BAH! Umm I dunno, it’s very hard to tell. I hope crimes will be less because we’ll be able to catch them quicker and prove they did it better than now. Hopefully there’ll be less diseases because cures will be found (bye bye epilepsy, don’t let the door hit you on the way out!). Hopefully Harry Potter will be happily living with Sirius in a quiet life in the future haha! The next book will hopefully be out soon, I think it would stress me right out that every term I got harassed by Voldy, WHAT ABOUT HARRYS EXAMS haha! Otherwise, eurgh it’s hard to know, I’m not mystic meg! I doubt Tony Blair will still be prime minister although the Queen might not still be OH MY GOD I hope the Queens not dead! Long live the Queen haha! Maybe by 2015 Emma Thwaites may have gotten over the fact that Take That split up although probably not haha!

What am I into? Horror films OBVIOUSLY. Blair Witch Project came out last year and was like, the new exorcist because people were throwing up after seeing it. I nearly did but only because of the CRAZY camera shit! Deep Blue Sea is a personal favourite, it’s a bit ridiculous MUTANT SHARKS ARE THE KILLERS haha! But it was pretty cool. Jodie thinks The Mummy is a horror film but it’s like a kids film haha! It’s been quite a good year for horror films I suppose. Terror Firmer, Carrie 2 (haha!), House on Haunted Hill. I’m big into Friends again now that EMILY WALTHAM HAS GONE! Finally. Eurgh. I still think Ross is a dick but Emily was so annoying and made English people look so uptight. It’d be cool if there was a British version of Friends, London’s Burning isn’t really good enough! Maybe I’ll write one but with YOUNG people in it instead of the Last of the Summer Wine rubbish that is basically what UK shows are. I’m into Spice Girls OBVIOUSLY! Girl Power haha! Hopefully I’ll see them in concert sometime, that would be AMAZING! Hopefully by 2015 girls will all be nicer to each other. I LOVE the Eurovision Song Contest which Dave Collinson says proves I’m a loser but I DON’T CARE haha, Eurovision for life! I really hope I get to see it live someday, but not when it comes back to the UK, somewhere exciting (and not Ireland who ALWAYS wins, except last year when Israel won for OBVIOUS reasons). I love computer games, CHRISTOPHER AND I COMPLETED DAY OF THE TENTACLE AND MANIAC MANSION, yeah we’re heroes. Oh and murder mysterys, we did one for Katy Whiteheads birthday last year and it was amazing, we went all round Cheltenham following clues before having a Chinese Takeaway for tea. I hope I’ll still be doing stuff like that.

Umm anything else? Oh yeah the Y2K bug didn’t kill all computers, so there’s that. I’m not allergic to tuna, that was obviously just wishful thinking.

My hopes for the future? I’ve already said really, successful, married, in love, great sex life, lots of travelling, lots of theatre, maybe be the surgeon that cures epilepsy and receive some kind of Nobel Peace prize and the ladies who went to the South Pole and I will do talks on being inspiring women haha! Might not be able to have children so I’m going to adopt, someone will have to continue my legacy haha! Oh and I REALLY hope I get to be in a horror film, or write one, or in some way be involved with horror films in my spare time. Maybe I’ll be creepy horror film girl but I’m creepy weird girl most of the time anyway so I may as well love it! Hopefully mine and Katy’s screenplay ‘Rest In Pieces’ will be made! Ummm I hope sashes are in fashion, haha, I don’t know why I just really like sashes, makes me feel like a clever superhero or something I suppose. We wore one in debating, not house debating it wasn’t our year to do that so a few of us did a gameshow version of one. I didn’t take part I just wrote and hosted it haha!

Soooooooooooooooooo, that’s where things are in the year 2000! Seeeeeee you again in 2015 where I’ll be living with aliens, having pills for meals and having a dramatic death in a horror film! Oh God, can you imagine if I AM dead! And my kids are tearfully reading this? Or if I die before adopting children and my husband is reading this, DARLING IM SURE I LOVE YOU AND ILL MISS YOU! Or if I die before meeting the love of my life!!!!!! Maybe I’ll start going to church again JUST IN CASE! Haha NOT. See you in the future Dani!”

Dramatic Darkness…

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Just after Christmas, my husband and I had a terrifying journey when the lights on the car suddenly went and decided to go! Terrifying because we were on a very dark country road at the time. Luckily the girls weren’t with us so they didn’t get to hear our pathetic screams and hear the language we used when trying to desperately find a place to safely pull over!

 

The night we got back, the bathroom light went. Weird we thought, but not exactly something to go into record books. The day after the landing light blew. ‘Maybe there’s something wrong with the circuit’ my Dad suggested, so a few days later, we asked a friend in the know to have a little look for us. No, nothing wrong with the circuits. That’s a relief, and the whole incident remained a coincidental mystery.

 

Just as we relaxed the dining room lights went, one by one, over three days (three bulbs). In the meantime the replacement bulb we’d put in the landing (we hadn’t got to the bathroom light yet as it needs a ladder to get there, so we’ve been having romantic candlelit baths…and romantic candlelit trips to the toilet..!) blew again with the lightbulb bounding creepily down the stairs…

 

It was at this point it felt like we were at the beginning of some kind of creepy movie. Although we managed to persuade ourselves we were too imaginative for our own good.

 

BUT THEN!! Tonight a bulb went in the lounge, in the five bulb chandelier…followed by a second one going shortly after. Now if all these bulbs had been installed at the same time we may put it down to eerily similar shelf lives of bulbs but not only were they all installed at different times, there were a mixture of energy saving and normal bulbs throughout the house. And the landing one blew just 24 hours after we’d replaced it.

 

So as we are both HIGHLY dramatic, we were starting to suspect paranormal activity..!

 

(DISCLAIMER: We are both intelligent people and we know that most likely this is all still down to coincidence but Goddamit let us play!)

 

We’re not going to set up video cameras because as the films have educated us, videoing them is a sure fire way of cranking up the paranormal activity straight up to a level ten! We’re also not going to do a Ouija board just yet as that similarly tends to end badly in the films. HOWEVER, as it is quite an old house, we decided to look into the history of the house and whether anything has ever happened here.

 

As we all know, chances are, there’s nothing. But my husband and I do love a good mystery, so as our lightbulbs are desperate for a bit of drama, we decided to see if we can attach any to them! Our limited research so far of the paranormal history of the road is that a lovely lady who worked in a bakery on the roundabout very near out house, died, in the hospital up the road, under no suspicious circumstances, with no associated paranormal activity recorded. So it looks like it’s up to the two of us to write our own version of events at home with fingers crossed that we have better luck with lightbulbs for the rest of 2017!

 

32 While 32…

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I turn the grand old age of 32 in a month. And as I’m a big fan of lists, I’ve written a little list of 32 things I’m going to achieve in the year I turn 32. My last post touched on why I’m not a huge fan of New Year as being ‘the time’ for new starts and being when every fresh start must take place. But I have to admit, on my birthday I tend to have a look back at what I’ve achieved in the last 12 months and have a little think about where I hope to get to in the following 12 months.

Six months before turning 30, my husband and I wrote a list of ’30 things to do before turning 30’, we did…well pretty appallingly really(!) but we wrote the list just after Scarlett was born, and frankly, we were a bit naïve and most of the list was affected by the arrival of our beloved Scarlett and the chaos and second pregnancy and little Holly that followed! Therefore, this year, I’m going back to that list first to pick up any that we didn’t do or to alter them accordingly (with the power of hindsight now we’re parents!). As we won’t be having any more children, we at least know that there’ll be no more pregnancies to work our progress round.

The original list (edited with how far we got with it) is posted at the bottom of this post if of interest!

All in all, we weren’t particularly successful with getting through my original list..!! Who knew having two very young children, establishing and growing a family business and carrying on with a career would keep us so busy…!! So my new list will contain quite a few repeats with a few new goals thrown in for good measure!

32 THINGS TO DO IN THE YEAR I TURN 32

  1. Visit Stonehenge – seriously, we’ll get there!
  2. Attend an ancient English festival (my hope is that this year we’ll be able to make the Newent Onion Fayre!)
  3. Perform some music live together in some capacity.
  4. Work abroad (I’m due to in February so hopefully this one should be easy to achieve!)
  5. Put together my second book in follow up to the first, even if I don’t yet publish either.
  6. Do some volunteering abroad.
  7. Have a family photoshoot with my side of the family.
  8. Go skinny dipping (just with my husband I think for that one!)
  9. See a show on Broadway.
  10. Run a paranormal event.
  11. Buy a pair of thigh high boots (not kinky boots, more hippy in style, go back to my boho fashion roots and have a bit of fun with fashion..!)
  12. Host a murder mystery dinner party or two (it’s tough to cut it down to 6-8 guests!)
  13. Attend some kind of cookery lesson, thinking perhaps sushi…
  14. Get involved in a campaign or similar (that I’m not already part of or working towards) about something I believe in.
  15. Go to Paint it Pottery.
  16. Go on a canal boat trip.
  17. Do something VIP, whether it be travelling first class or getting a box at the theatre or something to make an event that bit fancy.
  18. Attend an awards ceremony (I have tickets to one in January so this one will likely be the first to be ticked off an I’m very excited!)
  19. Go away for a romantic night away with my husband (we received a voucher for a Christmas present to do so, so this also should be doable!).
  20. Go paintballing.
  21. Go to and take part in a secret escape room.
  22. Attend a Comic Con, preferably in Cosplay.
  23. See a psychic or attend a séance or something similar.
  24. Go somewhere snowy on a group ski/snowboard holiday (this is hopefully in the planning!)
  25. Go to Thermae Bath Spa.
  26. Celebrate my Mum’s 60th birthday (she turned 60 just before Holly was born and I would normally be the one to have arranged something special but I wasn’t really in the right state to do anything last year sadly so it had to be postponed for a year)
  27. Set & achieve a fitness goal (similar to the swimming challenge I did in September where I swam 2km, not necessarily a swimming one but something to push myself physically).
  28. Make a music video (just for fun but because WHY NOT!)
  29. Get another piece of art (I got a piece of Jack Vettriano art for Christmas which I LOVE and I’d really like to get a second piece to finish off our lounge)
  30. Be involved in some kind of comedy in some kind of way (I’ve been reminiscing recently from some shows I was part of years ago and it made me miss doing something like that, it won’t necessarily be something big but it’s be great to flex those muscles again).
  31. Choose a primary school for Scarlett.
  32. Reserve Holly’s place at the same nursery.

Some entries a bit more extravagant than others, some ultimately more doable than others, but what fun would it be if it was all going to be easy! As last time, we may not succeed with all of them, and we may change our minds on some but that is all part of the adventure. I turn 32 in just over a month on the 5th February which means I have just about 13 months to work through the list, I’ll try and update throughout the next year or so and we’ll have to wait and see whether we do a bit better than our last effort of 18 out of 30!

 

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The 30 Before 30 List…

STILL NOT DONE 1- Visit Stonehenge

DONE (with one charity event becoming an annual tradition of ours!) 2- Take part in a charity sporting event together

DONE AT HOME A LOT WITH A SPECIAL BIRTHDAY SONG WRITTEN AND RECORDED FOR MY BROTHER IN LAWS 30TH BIRTHDAY BUT STILL NOT IN PUBLIC 3- Perform music live together (me singing, Tom playing an instrument, something we do at home a lot but never have done in public together…because of fear!)

STILL NOT DONE ALTHOUGH WE HAVE NOW GOT THREE KITS! 4- Host a murder mystery evening (I love these and have done them before, now I have a baby I suspect it’ll be slightly less raucous!)

DONE A FEW TIMES, NEXT TO PLAY MAP ROULETTE EXTREME (go to an airport or train station, get a ticket to the first journey on the board) 5- Play map roulette (pack the car, grab a map, close our eyes, stick a pin in it, most likely miss the map and yelp in pain, eventually hit a random location and head on off!)

STILL NOT DONE! 6- Do a dance class together (dance style not yet specified, suggestions welcome, maybe we’ll try a few!)

WE’VE ATTENDED SEVERAL 7- Attend a dinner/ball (the last one we went to we organised which was slightly more stressful!)

DONE AND SOMETHING WE WANT TO DO MORE OF AS A FAMILY IN 2017 8- Do some volunteering

DONE AND WE HAVE A TRIO OF COMIC COVERS 9- Create a piece of artwork

ABSOLUTELY DONE A FEW TIMES! 10- Have a movie marathon day (movies to be pre selected, day will be suitably accompanied with snacks and all are welcome to join us)

NOT DONE AND WE HAVEN’T TRIED VIKKI’S POLE EITHER! 11- Try pole dancing (we may wimp out of a class but Vikki assures us she has a home based pole we can try!)

NOT DONE, BUT I WILL TRY TO ACHIEVE THIS IN 2017! 12- Face my fear at Birdland and feed the penguins (with head keeper Ali’s help!)

I HAD AN AUDITION THAT I SADLY HAD TO CANCEL LAST YEAR SO ILL TRY AND GET BACK TO IT! 13- Appear on a gameshow (assisted by gameshow experts Stuart & Ali)

I DID AND IT WASN’T NICE!! 14- Eat a pot noodle sandwich (as pointed out by Matt – not acceptable after you’rE thirty and neither of us has ever done this!)

WE’VE HAD TWO WEEKENDS THERE AND ANOTHER ONE PLANNED! 15- Have a weekend in Tom’s honourary homeland Scotland (hopefully including visits to see Toms honourary countrymen!)

DONE AND IT WAS SURPRISINGLY TASTY! 16- Try a deep fried mars bar (well…when in Scotland…!)

DONE AND WE’VE HAD SOME AMAZING FOOD SINCE 17- Go to a foreign restaurant and order stuff we’ve never tried/can’t pronounce (recommendations welcome)

RIDICULOUSLY WE HAVEN’T DONE THIS YET 18- Attend an ancient English festival (along the lines of the Newent onion fayre etc)

WE’VE DONE A FEW DIFFERENT EVENTS AND THIS YEAR WILL BE ORGANISING A COUPLE OF OUR OWN WITH A FRIEND! 19- Go ghost hunting (on an official hunt, guided by a knowledgable friend…or rogue! One suspects October will be best for this!)

WE MET THE LOVELY SANDI TOKSVIG, JOE WILKINSON AND KATHY BURKE. 20- Meet a celebrity (a bit of luck may have to feature in this one!)

WE HAD TICKETS TO A COUPLE OF PROFESSOR ELEMENTAL EVENTS, BOTH OF WHICH WE SADLY HAD TO CANCEL DUE TO ILLNESS, WE DID GO TO A JOHN WILLIAMS CONCERT AND AN OPERA SO THOSE COUNT..? HOWEVER, I’VE GOT TICKETS TO TWO FOR 2017! 21- Attend a live music event

WE KNOW WHAT WE’RE GETTING BUT AS I WAS BREASTFEEDING AND/OR PREGNANT, ITS HAD TO WAIT! 22- Get a tattoo (cue an angry email from my Father in 3…2…1..!)

NOT YET! 23- Go for a cookery lesson

WE HAD ONE WITH MY HUSBANDS SIDE OF THE FAMILY BUT WE ARE STILL YET TO ORGANISE ONE WITH MY SIDE SO WE’LL HAVE TO TRY AND SORT THAT THIS YEAR, ESPECIALLY AS MY BROTHER AND HIS FIANCEE GOT ENGAGED! 24- Have a family photoshoot (we have a huge family so the more the merrier but I suspect it will only include parents & siblings if we even manage to co-ordinate that when we’re all free!)

WE WENT ON THE POLAR EXPRESS WHICH WAS AMAZING ALTHOUGH STILL YET TO GO ON ONE IN LOCAL TODDINGTON. 25- Go on a steam train (either just a journey or make the most of one of the events they run)

WE DID INDEED AND AT LEAST THREE OF THEM WERE VERY SPECIAL TO US. 26- Complete 5 random acts of kindness

STILL HAVEN’T, WE’RE NEVER QUITE SURE WHEN TO GET THE SLOES! 27- Make Sloe Gin

VERY SADLY, WE STIL HAVEN’T DONE THIS FOR EITHER WHICH MAKES ME VERY SAD. BIG FAMILY EVENTS HAVE PROVEN NOT TO BE EASY TO SORT THOUGH – WE MAY HAVE TO JUST DO A VERY SMALL PRIVATE ONE! 28- Arrange & have a baby naming ceremony for Scarlett (more complicated than it sounds!)

WE DID START ONE BUT ARE YET TO HAVE LIVE PERFORMANCE! 29- Start a band (this must include more than just the two of us and at least one live performance, band member volunteers welcome!)

THIS WAS A SECRET CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY WHICH WE WENT ON AND WE’VE HAD A CHRISTMASTIME HOLIDAY EVERY YEAR SINCE SO IT’S BECOME A BIT OF A TRADITION! 30- Secret number 30!

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New Year Nonsense…

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It’s a New Year! Possibilities are endless! 2017 can be magical!!
Ok, we’ll, let’s be honest though, some of it WILL be shit. It’s the 3rd of January and chances are, we’ve all already had a fair few shit moments. So far in 2017, we’ve had to try and sort our car out after the lights suddenly (and terrifyingly) blew on a dark country road. I was so worried about some upcoming work and how I was going to succeed, I threw up and then cried (it was quite a ridiculous reaction but when the holiday finishes and deadlines loom, panic seems to sneak in there..!). Holly hasn’t been sleeping very well so both my husband and I are exhausted. And we’ve had to cancel a date night because of some sickness. And it’s only day three! Admittedly nothing devastatingly terrible but let’s not pretend that a New Year is a guaranteed fresh start pill. The truth is real life has its ups and downs and although days, weeks, months and years will be remembered as relatively good or bad especially in hindsight, we’re never free of challenges. 

This time last year we went through the hardest times of our lives and in my diary in 3rd January, there is a passage about recent hospital results; I wrote about how I’m terrified that I’m not going to ever meet my new baby and that I can’t keep my mind straight long enough to be able to deal with it. So this year we’re breathing a HUGE sigh of relief that blown fuses in the car and work stress are our biggest worries. But even looking back on my Timehop, on this day, I had enjoyed a spa bath, and had a fabulous family dinner out. So even on really dark days, there is light. And similarly, on the best days, there are bad points. 

What I’m ramblingly saying is that whilst New Years is a great time to reflect and look forward, give yourself a break and remember not to pin everything on one side of the picture. Learn from your mistakes and by all means set goals but don’t hang yourself on things you got wrong. It’s about how you look at it. 

So in 2016, on paper my year could come across in a few different ways, two as follows (from my own personal perspective);

1. I had a beautiful healthy baby girl, got a new job, started a really exciting new project, had my first full year as a theatre Company Director, started to regain control of my epilepsy and started to build my fitness back up after my last pregnancy. We also went on two family holidays and my eldest started nursery where she is extremely happy.

2. My epilepsy got miles worse at the beginning of the year, and I’m still not able to be on a lower dose medication. I’ve been told I can’t safely have anymore children and will be having an operation in 2017 to ensure I don’t. I’m still having multiple UTI’s as my kidneys and water functions haven’t yet recovered from the pregnancy. After being signed off work for four months at the beginning of the year, I was also made redundant and I have consequently started this year owing money after having to borrow a bit. My baby has minor digestive problems because I wasn’t able to carry her quite long enough in the pregnancy for her digestive system to finish developing. I had to postpone publishing my book because I wasn’t well enough and I still haven’t got round to doing so, and to round it off, my opportunities working in Science in Europe have been cut off due to the political goings on of 2016.

Reading the two out loud sounds like one great year and one terrible year. But they are the same year, with different perspectives. One of them is the one on social media, the one that other people see, the highlights (and to be honest the way I’ll look back and remember it). The second is the backstage pass, the self punishing, overly judgemental view that I, of course, over think about constantly late at night whilst I can’t sleep. They are both imperfect views. 

Similarly, this year can be looked forward at very differently. It could be seen as the year I’m doing some work in America and potentially making some minor but important changes to education in the UK. Or it’s the year I officially lose the ability to have children, another year of battling epilepsy and a year I could potentially hugely fail with my education plans. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking forward or looking back, we can all be too hard on ourselves in the past, present AND the future, it’s a skill…!

So if you’ve concentrated too much on your backstage pass view of 2016, try and have a look through other people’s eyes, because the highlights reel isn’t a lie. As a society we have a sad tendency to feel like the positive things we put out are just a mask to the negatives but that’s not true. They are two separate things and one doesn’t take away the other. It’s all part of our life, but the choice not to dwell or publicise the negative is, in my opinion, a sensible one. When we look back, we’ll see the results of the lessons we’ve learnt from the bad times but we don’t need to relive it. We need to use the highlights as a balm, to soothe away the difficulties, and remind us that the struggles are worth it or aren’t the strongest things. We all strive for the highlights, the low points have their place but they don’t deserve the limelight after they’ve taught us what we need to know.

I’m choosing to put view 2 of 2016 to bed because view 1 is the one that really matters. And I choose to concentrate on view 1 of 2017. Because given the chance, positivity does breed more positivity. HOWEVER, I’m sure there’ll be days when I think ‘oh God I can’t do this anymore/I’m not good enough for this/this is all too much’ etc etc.. And when that happens I’ll look to the fresh start. Not January 1st, that’s just an arbitrary date used in the calendar. Any time can be a fresh start, and you can have as many as you like. So if on February 21st you have a duvet day when you think there’ll be nothing good in the world ever again, fear not. Put it to bed and make 22nd February your fresh start. And then again the 24th if need be. Or halfway through the 21st if you fancy! When you want to or when you’re strong enough to or when it feels right, you have the power to stamp your foot and say ‘no this is enough, I’m changing direction/I’m altering my plan/I’m adjusting my perspective’. You don’t miss your chance if you don’t start the year singing, dancing with fireworks going off behind you! 

Life is a balance. Success is changeable, happiness is part of the journey, not a fixed destination. And yes I’m aware I’m speaking in cliches now but it’s true. Today has not been a particularly great day for me personally, too much work, I’ve let stress get on top of me and I don’t have confidence in my ability to succeed. Does that mean my 2017 is doomed? Of course not! It doesn’t even mean my Tuesday is doomed. 

So dear comrades, I will wish you a Happy New Year because I hope you had a good one. But if you didn’t, you’re not a failure, or a bad person, or doomed to have a terrible year. I believe in you, even if you don’t. And I see you through your highlights reel, so try and do yourself that same kindness when you’re being hard on yourself. If you started 2017 curled in a ball crying, it still means that it’s going to be your year. 

It doesn’t mean magic doesn’t exist, it does, and it’s worth looking for it. For me today, I found magic in a hot chocolate in the bath. I’ve had a little cry, and I’m bathing in the dark because the light bulbs gone…! But I made a hot chocolate and coupled with the hot bath, even with the tears, it’s a little mug of magic. It’s not a great day, but all it needed was a little semblance of sunshine. Today’s society has so many pressures and we’re all supposed to strive for these massive gestures of joy or these very tough to attain slices of success. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we don’t all need to save the world every day. Some days, enjoying a hot chocolate is enough, so GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK!

A very sincere Happy New Year comrades, you are imperfectly and deliciously you, and your highlights are more than you give them credit for. And that’s a little bit magic. Here’s to it!

Coughing concern…

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Today we took Moop to the Dr’s. She’s had a cold for almost three weeks now but during this last week, she’s had a cough that’s only been getting worse, especially at night. After listening to her poor little wheezy chest, we’ve been given some antibiotics as well as the same steroids that are found in asthma inhalers to clear it up, hopefully within 48 hours.

As my Dad, my brother, and my husband all have asthma, it’s not particularly surprising that it looks like our youngest has it. With a bit of luck, as is quite common, she may well grow out of it in a few years (she may not have many problems at all). In fact if she takes after the three who have it, she’ll only really notice it after a virus (which will go to her chest) or on the odd occasion where she’ll have to dig out an old inhaler. So all in all, it likely won’t affect her particularly.I called the Dr after the cold had; 1) lasted three weeks and 2) after the cough had gotten worse rather than better; mainly because you get those patronising head tilt questions sometimes when you take a baby to the Dr, “Is this your first?” As if the child has sneezed once and you’ve called an ambulance. With Holly’s rather traumatic pregnancy, I have to admit, my husband and I have to take that extra moment to reassure ourselves if we think she’s poorly. We’re slightly less sure this time round because we’re still on high alert in this first year. Holly is now older than her pregnancy. I was pregnant for just under 8 months and she is now just over 8 months. 

The thing is, I kept myself relaxed by saying ‘you don’t go to the Dr with a cold. Not until it lasts longer than three weeks or if symptoms worsen for goodness sake.’ I said this over and over in my head (whilst maintaining an outward vision of serenity and control of course…!). So when she had a particularly wheezy bout of coughing this morning after a bad night, and I double checked my calendar (as if I didn’t know exactly how many days it had been); I realised that, not only had it been three weeks but her cough was definitely getting worse. And at that point my mindset went from ‘nothing to worry about until…etc’ to ‘God why didn’t I call sooner about this’. In the space of half hour I went from feeling like a neurotic mother to a neglectful one! “My poor baby, this terrible cough, the strained breathing, the wheezing in her chest, HOW did I not call sooner?!” 

As a parent, there is no such thing as finding the balance…you’re definitely wrong, it just depends on which way you are wrong! 

The Dr’s surgery was delayed, so I spent the twenty minute waiting room telling myself I was a terrible parent, and when she coughed I imagined all the other people waiting thinking ‘take that poor child away from that horrible mother, fancy leaving a cough like that till now’. (In hindsight that was perhaps a tiny bit dramatic but everyone looks a bit shifty in a Dr’s waiting room, it’s the nerves and the eery silence, who knows what goes on in those people’s heads!!) 

Anyway, we were called in. And although I’m sure I didn’t, it felt like I sat down and immediately yelled the Dr my excuse about leaving it three weeks because that’s the advice I’d been given with my first, ‘don’t call the Dr for three weeks if it’s just a cold’. He listened to her chest and then came the longest 15 seconds of my life. The only sounds in the room were Holly’s strained and wheezy breathing, I watched the Dr’s face turn from ‘general polite’ , to ‘concentrated concern’. The clocks ticking suddenly sounded insanely loud. 

The Dr then said, ‘no that doesn’t sound pleasant poor little one’. Then he paused.

Oh God oh God oh God oh God.

‘Right, she’s a bit young for an inhaler, but it does seem like asthma. Is there anyone in the family with it?’

I nodded.

‘Ok I’ll write a couple of prescriptions which should clear this up in the next 48 hours, if by he end of this week it’s not cleared up, call us back and we’ll look into sorting an inhaler straight away.’

And funnily enough at no point did he tell me that I was a crappy mother, and at no point did a swat team come bursting in the room to arrest me for neglect. So that was nice.

Parenthood can be punishing, like a lot of the time! And even though I was HUGELY that person who scornfully tutted at ‘neurotic’ parents, I now get that, when it comes to your child, suddenly your imagination becomes your worst enemy. Because yes, these terrible unthinkable incidents are one in a million, but there is no guarantee that yours won’t be that one. We all turn our eyes away for a second, and in that second horrible things can happen. We all dismiss symptoms when 999 out of a 1000 times they mean a cold or generic bug, but there are terrifying things that those ‘harmless symptoms’ can mean in the remaining 1 in 1000 times. 

We were incredibly lucky with the safe arrival of Holly, I know I’ve said it a million times but there were several occasions where we were told things could go wrong, from the very beginning of the pregnancy, we had countless tense waits whilst we saw if she had; 1) implanted on the right side as the other side of my uterus wasn’t strong enough to carry her (I have a bicornuate uterus and my first pregnancy left one side of it too weak to sustain a pregnancy). 2) grown enough when a scan was unclear. 3) whether my deteriorating kidneys would hold out long enough for the pregnancy to last long enough for a healthy arrival. 4) whether the increased severity of epilepsy would lead to a fall or accident. Looking back on it makes me anxious, we were so incredibly lucky to pass all the hurdles. I suppose part of me feels like I got away with it TOO lucky, too unscathed. It puts me on edge! 

Apart from some digestive problems early on for Holly and now some mild asthma symptoms, our two girls are perfectly healthy and I not only touch wood but clutch desperately onto wood and hope beyond hope that that stays the case. Obviously I don’t expect them to never have colds or get into the odd scrape, but those types of things are every parents worst nightmare. The dangers and illnesses around that you have no control over could drive anyone insane if you thought about them too much! 

So I rationalised and called after three weeks when the cough got worse, and kept all the crazy in my head, with just a tiny bit seeping out as I death stared down anyone in the Dr’s waiting room that I thought could be thinking negative things(…!).

My Grandad used to say ‘if you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything’, which I used to disagree with slightly. I always thought, well, clothes and things are quite handy too actually! But now I’m a Mum I understand what he meant. Our girls being ok means EVERYTHING to me. Grandad didn’t necessarily mean HIS health, I think he meant that if his loved ones had their health, he had everything. 

There is no rhyme or reason behind why some children and their families have to go through so much pain. I always wish I could do more to help when a child is ill or hurt. Every parent can empathise, or could do easily be any one of us and we all know it. It’s why we insist on cuddling our loved ones extra tight when we hear about the suffering of others. 

We’ve all escalated things in our heads; illnesses, injuries, the horrible and ridiculous outcomes we play out in our heads when we receive a message that says ‘can you call me’! But it’s not because we’re stupid, or neurotic or weak. It’s because we care, we love, we want to protect. 

So don’t let anyone make you feel bad if you rush your baby to A&E because she’s suddenly screaming in pain (my husband had to hold me back when the Dr dared to look me in the eye and accusingly ask if I was feeding her enough because ‘baby’s cry when they’re hungry’. Bastard!), it will often turn out to be something minor (like minor digestion problems for example!). But on the offchance it’s something more serious, to make ABSOLUTELY sure one of my precious girls is ok, I’ll take my chances with that bloody patronising head tilt anyway! 

Dear daughters…

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A few nights ago, I was feeling particularly sentimental. My husband and I came to the end of an extremely busy month, which had various different high pressure or stressful situations, and we opened a bottle and took some time together to relax. We are very excited about this Christmas, Holly’s first ever and our first as a family of four. Scarlett is at the age where she has started asking quite consistently for ‘more treats’ and ‘I want that’, and we’re trying to teach her that that’s a) not very polite but b) not really what this season is about. 

At two years old, we’re (hoping!) that it’s just a riskier tantrum stage, and certainly several other parents seem to recognise it as a phase all kids go through. I went to bed that night and wrote them a letter. Below is that letter. 

If 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that truly, the unthinkable can ALWAYS happen! Whether it be a presidential election, a referendum or any one of the sad events that have blighted the year. But without sounding like a cheesey cartoon character, good will always prevail. A lot of bad can and will happen, but kindness and magic outnumbers it. It always has and always will, and in uncertain times, it’s even more important to believe, even more important to hold onto.

Here’s to a very happy December to you all dear comrades. I wish you every happiness and an extremely hearty dose of magic! 
“Dear daughters,

Today is the first of December, and your Father and I are both very passionate about December being magical!November has been an extremely busy, hard working, high pressure and stressful one. In a (ridiculously shortened..!) summary, Daddy didn’t have a single day off in November, an already busy month became even busier as it went along and he has been amazing. Girls, I have always been in awe of my husband, admired his work ethic and how well he treats people and this month in particular, those qualities have really shone. You are both extremely lucky to have such a strong role model in your Daddy. It’s kept me going. November for me has also been extremely important. I start Criminology lecturing in January, and I am also working with some amazing people towards increasing healthy communication about mental health for young people, as well as personal safety teaching. A wide remit including how to spot signs of danger, reducing risks, safer choices to make, a whole host of ways for younger people to take preventative measures against crime that will hopefully be incorporated into, at least a few schools. It’s going to be a long, hard slog, but you two girls are the best kind of motivation! You’ve both been at my side for a lot of meetings and countless Skype calls, a local MP told you that you, Scarlett, had a beautiful smile, and you sang Baa Baa Black sheep to him! Moments like that are alongside my research notes to remind me where we started. It may go nowhere of course, I might fail. And if I do, I’ll try again, or I’ll change tact, or I’ll have done all I can and I’ll move onto something else. But failing will be ok.

Anyway, unknown outcomes aside! November 2016 was a busy month for your Father and I. It was very tiring and at times, we were on schedules that didn’t allow for much family time. And you both know how pathetically soppy your parents are when they don’t get to see much of each other and you girls! And we think the Winter season is extra magical, it’s our favourite time of year. 

Last year was a tough one because Mummy and Holly were both so poorly before we even had our little Moop with us. And we weren’t able to deal with it as privately as we wanted to because of circumstances. So THIS year, we are determined to make it extra special! With LOTS of family time, and friends time to boot! 

Scarlett you now understand what Christmas entails and you are SO excited! We were in Bath the other day and you loved seeing Father Christmas in the streets and we picked up some Christmas gloves and a homemade wooden owl that makes an owl sound when you blow into it. You loved it! Our main goal this year is to try and make sure that you learn that kindness and good will and sharing are the most important messages in December. I know that you’re a kind hearted little Ladey though so although a toddlers will is very strong, I’m positive your generous heart will win this stage! And our little Holly! It is your very first Christmas! The bright lights are obviously attracting your attention, and you are finding your big sisters excitement very infectious. 

We’ve started our annual activity calendar so you’ve both gone to bed tonight in new Christmas Star Wars pyjamas, and tomorrow we’re going to a very special Christmas show. Both of which have cost money (although we have plenty of shows we can attend free thanks to Daddy’s work!) but that isn’t the point. Annual activity calendar is about spending time with friends and family. The first year I did it, my family in Australia took part and we sent each other pictures and videos. And since then, December has been one of the ways we catch up with people who mean the world to us but that we don’t get to see as often as we’d like.

I’m currently watching ‘Once Upon A Time’, an American series for adults but about fairy tales. It’s funny, but it’s reminded me that adults should believe in magic. It’s important to. There have been days I haven’t wanted to believe in magic, or people (which is where magic comes from really girls, it’s from people) and I’ve felt frustrated, and angry, and have wondered why I’m putting the work in. But every time, I’ve taken some time out to breathe, or (more often than not!), your Dad has reminded me what’s important in a whole different manner of ways. And without fail, things are always ok. And I’m constantly reminded that giving in and taking the easy route is never worth it. What can seem like the hardest path at the time, always seems to get us where we need to be! And yes, of course a cheesey series has the same message. For someone who can be so practical at times, both your parents can be laughably sentimental! So there have been times I’ve gone to meetings with certain character pants on to remind me to think of magic when I’m faced with middle aged men who, in a meeting, have patronised me and put hurdles in my way or have suggested that ‘as a young woman’ I would find my goals more difficult. And on particularly tough days, I’ve made a dinner of turkey dinosaurs, smiley faces and spaghetti hoops for us to indulge in childhood comforts as a morale boost. A mug of hot chocolate with squishy cream and mini marshmallows also works a treat. There’s magic in the little things, magic works! 

We are planning to make December 2016 our best Christmas yet. Our family of four is complete, safe and well. And I hope our families friends and family also have an amazing holiday season. God knows with the way 2016 went, the entire planet could do with a short break! And then, ok still a Trump presidency, but hopefully a slightly less challenging 2017 for all! We were very lucky in 2016 to have our Moop join us healthy and safe, you are a shining star in an otherwise pretty terrible year worldwide (history lessons when you’re both older will certainly be interesting when they get to 2016!). 

But, my sweethearts, as I said, magic is in people, and in December, it shines that little bit brighter, and we all have a bit extra to be able to help people for whom Christmas is particularly hard. You two make our December the shiniest it’s ever been. We love you very much and I hope you always remember to be kind, to help others and to give back, not just at Christmas time but all year round. I have no doubt you both will.

We love you very much xx”

Planning panning…

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I am a chronic over planner. Not in that everything is meticulously planned (I’m also a huge ‘off the cuff-er’!) but in that we often find ourselves with weeks without any spare nights, or lunch breaks, or time for tea (scratch that, there’s always ways for tea to be incorporated!).
So at any given time, somebody we really care about is in a show, somebody we care about is playing a gig, and someone we care about is celebrating a birthday. The fantastic thing about mixing business with pleasure is that it creates a huge group of amazing diverse people that we mix with, the problem with mixing business with pleasure is that, for example, we would dearly love to go and watch Urinetown with people we know involved, but it’s people we know from working in St Ives…who live in Glasgow, which is where the show is on!

And whether it’s someone we know socially or someone we’ve worked with, we genuinely want to see everyone in what they’re doing. The only two problems are time and money! So at the moment, one friend is doing scare tours at Kenilworth Castle, one is in a production of Henry V in Birmingham, the aforementioned friends are involved in Urinetown in Glasgow, a childhood friend is playing gigs in town, another is in a show at The Globe, another is opening a new show in Worcester, another is performing throughout the Cotswolds, we’re involved with a show in Bath, two in London, two in Cheltenham and another touring the UK. (I’ve probably missed a few out, apologies if I have!) At the same time, a close friend has a Christening today, a family member is starting to do new type of dance classes, it’s my brothers birthday in a couple of days, and there’s some other stuff going on that we’re on ‘last minute head over to’ if needed. The list could go on, and it’s the same for lots of people, especially a lot of the people in a similar line or type of work. We all work hard, build connections with people we work with, and want to support each other as much as we can. The truth is, we just can’t do it all, and it’s a skill in itself being honest about that to ourselves! 

The reasons for making one show and not another is most usually just circumstance, whether we have that night off, what our finances look like that week, geography (we really can’t often go all the way to Glasgow as much as we always want to!). 

To be honest, the answer to the ‘how are you’ question to most people we know is, ‘good, busy.’ That response is the international phrase for, ‘I have a million and one things to do, and several difficult things in my life but I don’t have time to talk about it, let alone get on top of it.’ We’re all doing our best duck impression, (and I don’t mean pouting!) gliding along the surface, but paddling like mad underneath to keep afloat.

And we all want to make sure we’re there for our nearest and dearest, so if one friend is in a show an hour away, and another is an hour away and going through a hard time, we’re all likely to choose to post a ‘well done’ on the first persons wall, and head round to the second friends with a cuddle and a bottle of something. And hopefully all our close friends know that whatever’s happening, if they need to come round for a cuddle, it’s more important than whatever else is going on, even if we might need a cuddle back. That stuffs really important, and vital to remain sane!

This week, we were hosting a Halloween party at ours. But we put it in the diary a few months ago, when that week was otherwise empty. It got full, really full, with professional matters AND personal matters. All of a sudden, there was no one overbearing reason to cancel, but we realised we couldn’t really manage it. I have an inner ear infection at the moment, not big, just enough to make me feel a bit dizzy! A family member has been poorly, and we wanted to be on hand in case we were needed. We didn’t have any days off this week, so we were both tired and a bit drained. So we cancelled. No main reason, just…we’re not doing it now we’re sorry. I worried ALL day the day we cancelled that people would be angry or annoyed, because, after all, there was no ‘real excuse’ to cancel. 

HOWEVER, what we got instead was one friend saying he was glad as he was still trying to rearrange work to make it and it was stressing him out a bit, one saying they were exhausted and was secretly quite excited to have a now empty upcoming evening (and hoped we weren’t offended by them saying so), and three people messaging because they’re working all weekend and were pleased they might be able to make a rearranged date. 

In the end we just had our siblings round for the evening, had a quiet dinner and solved a homemade mystery my husband devised especially for the four of us which was a real giggle and the tonic we needed. Apart from a knock at the door from a big group of some VERY cute trick or treaters (which then led to us dressing Scarlett up as a badass vampire slayer complete with toy chainsaw…although don’t ask why we have a toy chainsaw hanging around..!) it was the quieter, family night we all sorely needed. 

Sometimes, it needs to be ok for us to say, I’m sorry I’m not doing that, without having to feel like you have to write an essay of excuses to justify yourself (which I am terrible for doing, I always feel really guilty unless there’s what could be deemed a ‘valid’ excuse). The truth is, we’re all really busy, and stressed, and got lots of things going on.

We all need to prioritise ‘being ok’, having some time out, and sometimes doing little or nothing. People understand exactly what you mean when you say ‘It’s just all a bit much at the moment so I’m dialling down’. And anyone who gives you a hard time about it, perhaps isn’t being a good enough friend. (Or perhaps really wishes they could choose the do the same but feel like they can’t!)

Now I don’t mean it’s ok to just keep sacking off your friends and family at last minute! On the contrary; sometimes if there’s a friend or family member in need, other things need to be dropped. So if I ‘plan’ to have a relaxing night watching old episodes of Greys Anatomy in my pyjamas and then I hear that a friend has lost their job and is upset, pyjamas Greys has to be shelved! 

But what I mean is, we all get it. Life is busy for us all. Our door is always open to people we care about (members of our village – which will make sense to regular readers from my last post!). Always. 

I suppose my main point here is that I’m terrible for over committing and I know a lot of people who are the same; we had a DnD night booked recently (I know, we are super cool!) and we started to wonder if we should still hold it, and then the day of the event, two of the confirmed participants cancelled. One with the reason given as ‘I’m not sure it’s best for my family for me to be out again tonight’. Fair enough, and very well chosen. We ended up having a quiet night with a very close member of our village (I realise every time I write this that I sound like a cult member…I promise it’s not!). We’d all over subscribed ourselves, and it worked for us all to cancel. So even if there’s an event cancelled that you’d been looking forward to, don’t be annoyed even if you think there’s not a good enough reason for it. Remember the times you’ve had an event on that you didn’t feel up to and felt like you needed a better excuse to say no to. Or, even more aptly, think about the time you went to an event feeling crappy, and left feeling just as crappy and wishing you’d stayed at home and in bed, perhaps with people wondering what was up with you. We all get it (those that don’t are not the people in the right, it’s not ok to feel guilt tripped into attending things under the guise of ‘being a bad friend if you don’t’!) and we all need to have a break and look after ourselves and those closest to us.

We are hoping to catch as many of our hugely talented friends in as many of the shows that they’re in over the next couple of months, and we’ll hopefully see some of them at our Winter tour of Hound of the Baskervilles. And I know a lot of them will want to, but it will be ok if they don’t make it. They mean more to us than ticket sales! Whether it’s Theatre, or sport, or any other career, those in my life have my complete and full support whether I can physically be with them or not. And they (should hopefully) all know that. It’s a cliche when people thank everyone for their well wishes on FB, but it’s genuine. We are all busy people, and even if the odd social media nod is all we have time for that day or that week, we are all in each other’s hearts. And even if there’s a few cancelled plans here and there, knowing we’re worth something to others, is pretty awesome. If you’re in my life (whether we see each other a lot or not) you are important and you mean a lot to me. And when I can, I’ll be at your show, your promotion party, I’ll buy your book, I’ll share your Facebook page. BUT, if I don’t, it’s for a good (not necessarily public) reason even if it’s not a big dramatic reason. But know that if you really need us, we’ll be there, and we’ll cancel plans, get in a bottle of wine and make up the spare room if need be. And likewise if we need some family time, or feel like we’ll fall down if we try and fit in any more, or jut want a night in with a bath, we’ll take the time out. So please, feel free to cancel on us or say no to an invite, we’ll do the same, and we can all stop feeling bad about it! We matter, you matter, it’s ok to say ‘not today’ and hide under your duvet if you need to instead or hide under ours if you like! Sending huge amounts of love to you all comrades.