About pfstare

I am a wife and mother with a very British sense of humour. An ex Londoner, I now live in the Oxfordshire countryside with my three children and one workaholic cardiologist husband.

Gratitude (or Happiness is a Warm Run)

As you hit your 40s, you begin to notice a significant proportion of the people you know start to either get ill, or bits start falling off.

Particularly among the women who’ve had children.

Even the athletes you know, the ones who run 40 miles at a time, or a half marathon during their lunch break, start to suffer from perpetual injuries because their bodies just can’t hack the pace any more. This wasn’t entirely what I was expecting from this decade.

I recently went for lunch with a friend I’ve known for years, who was 40 this year. She’s putting off a major operation because she’s still got a toddler at home. To make her feel better I showed her my hearing aids. Yes, it’s not a glamorous look. If you used to get called the Greta Garbo of the sixth form, it may not go with that version of your self image. However, I wear them. It helps me hear ‘Will you empty the dishwasher?’ instead of ‘Will you have a chocolate biscuit?’. It avoids my husband thinking I’m being selectively deaf. I’m not saying I don’t occasionally practice selective deafness anyway but…….

I have genetic hearing loss, inherited from my Dad’s side of the family and I fully expect to be completely stone deaf in my 80s. Glasses seem to be socially acceptable at this age, but hearing aids are not. There are a lot of adverts on hidden versions and comments on how you can’t really see mine. I’ve now lost count of the number of conversations I’ve had with people where they’ve admitted ‘yes I need some of those’ or ones that go something like this:

Waitress: ‘The quiche on special today is the leek, mushroom and creme fraiche’
Me: (with my hearing aids) ‘Ok thank you’
Friend in 40s: ‘What was that?’
Me: (laughs): ‘What did you just say to me about needing hearing aids?’

Maybe it’s because they’re my friends, but the way most people I know deal with their problems is to use humour. In my experience the women are fairly blunt with one another. Friends with pelvic floor issues that will affect their performance on the dance floor and need to *ahem*, prepare in advance, will tell you. You will laugh (with them), until you cry. You will share whatever it is that also bothers you and you will console each other.

Others will get really sick. Someone close to me has had breast cancer and has been in treatment for the last year. She has very small children and I don’t know how she’s done it. Her prognosis looks good but she remains the reason I’m making myself run a long race for charity in the Autumn. As readers who have seen this post will know, I love running, so it’s not a hardship and I don’t need anyone to say well done. I am also running it because I want to stay fit for as long as possible and I will carry on doing so for as long as I can.

Sweaty woman in skin tight neon don’t look glamorous either but I’m thankful I’m not doing so badly and that I’m able to carry on laughing with my friends.

Gratuitous use of laughing Buddha. Whatever's happening in your life, he made you smile didn't he? Photo credit:  MichaelKuhn_pics / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Gratuitous use of laughing Buddha. Whatever’s happening in your life, he made you smile didn’t he?
Photo credit: MichaelKuhn_pics / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

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A message for my fellow bloggers…

I am experiencing the same, and just spreading the word. Thanks to Vanessa for writing this. Please check your spam folder as one or other of us (or some other harmless blogger) may be languishing in there with the processed ones….

Vanessa-Jane Chapman

Spam

Over the last week, WordPress, or rather Akismet spam catcher, has been putting most of the comments I leave on other people’s blogs into their spam folder. This does happen sometimes to us genuine bloggers, where for some reason we get blacklisted; I understand it’s happening to a few other people at the moment. I have reported myself to Akismet for this. Akismet does a great job of filtering out spam, and it’s understandable that it won’t always get it 100% right.

So if I usually comment on your posts, and haven’t this week, please check if I’m in your spam folder and release me! I checked my own spam folder this morning and found a real person in there! I haven’t commented as much over the last week because it’s frustrating to take time to write a thoughtful comment, only for it to disappear, so if I’m not hiding…

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Guilty……

Despite wishing I could write more often, I don’t. I will apply the following excuses here:

a) I have three children;
b) I am slogging through the tedium of applying for jobs;
c) I am training for a long run;
d) My husband keeps getting on planes (if you happen to be in Vancouver and see a man in a suit but with no cufflinks and tie because he forgot them, please give him a wave from me);
e) The dog ate my homework.

However, the guilt of being given awards and not managing ever to thank the people who gave me them, has finally got too much. So thank you very much to Real Mom Dee, to Jenn and to Angie for these:

liebster-award-2013veryinspiringblogawardversatile_blogger_award

As part of the rules of the Liebster award, which is the one I am going to focus on (sorry I know that’s cheating), I am going to answer Angie’s very difficult questions in response, probably not as well as I should do:

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? And why?
Despite having travelled a fair bit, for me there is no place like home. So, when the weather is good, I don’t want anywhere else but here. I would love to live a bit nearer some hills or sea though and if you asked me in February, during half term, I’d probably say a beach in Mexico.

If you could be any historical figure who would you be? And why?
I’d like to have made an important contribution to medicine or science as I grew up around people who did, but sadly I was never much good at maths, chemistry or physics. So someone like Alexander Fleming. Turning in to anyone like this was never going to happen in my case.

What is your greatest regret?
I don’t really believe in regret as don’t think it’s a helpful way to live. I do have a few but I’m staying zipped on those. You can listen to a bit of Edith Piaf here instead.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
I would stamp on my perfectionism.

Which six people famous people (dead or living) would you invite to a dinner party and why you have chosen them?
Margaret Thatcher and the Dalai Lama and I’d have them sit together. David Attenborough because I have grown up with his voice. Helen Mirren because I admire her and think she’s got a bit of mischief about her. JK Rowling just because I’d love to meet her (and so I can thank her for getting my eldest son to actually enjoying reading). Sam Rockwell or Hugh Jackman. Or alternatively someone like Michael McIntyre or Stephen Fry, because I like anyone intelligent who can make me laugh.

What do you worry about most of all?
Very boringly, and like most mothers I expect, my children.

Tell me about your favourite book.
I don’t have one, there are so many. I loved The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern as I got swept away in it on holiday. Having read some other people’s reviews of it, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea though.

Do you believe in a particular cause? Care to elaborate?
Any charity or person that supports people with mental health problems as it is still a taboo subject. So many people suffer in silence during their lifetime.

Why do you write?
I enjoy it and find it relaxing. When I can manage it, I love making people laugh.

If you could be any animal what would it be and why?
I love swimming in the sea, so probably a dolphin.

Do you ever think you might have lived before?
No.

and to fulfil the second half of the rules, here are your random facts:

1.I haven’t eaten meat since I was in my early teens – but I’m not vegetarian.
2.I love dancing and could probably dance for 5 hours straight if you let me (yes still).
3.I am a dog person.
4.I can run 10 miles but have never done a half marathon.
5.I am most definitely a lark not an owl.
6.I drink Lapsang Souchong first thing in the morning.
7.I prefer interesting unusual jewellery to expensive rocks on tiny silvery strings.
8.I am like a Rottweiler when I’ve had no sleep.
9.I like colour and rarely wear black.
10. I am always looking for the point.
11. This is the last time I’m doing this!

I follow a lot of blogs and I have trouble keeping up. On looking through them, most don’t make the Liebster criteria, some I know hate blog awards; others have almost all of them already.

I am very grateful to those who comment on my blog, and am happy that my audience is quality not quantity! You know who you are.

I am nominating those who deserve a bigger audience, who make me laugh, write beautifully or make me think. Others are those who I think should be encouraged to keep going as people have encouraged me. So My Liebster nominated bloggers are:

http://thewineoclocknews.com/

http://barbedwords.wordpress.com/

http://ottominuti.com/

http://redhenrun.wordpress.com/

http://wewillbeginagain.com/

http://strawberriesinthedesert.com/

http://viewfromtheside.wordpress.com/

http://ivybones.wordpress.com/

http://magicandmarvels.wordpress.com/

http://lukeotley.com/

http://nothingbythebook.com/

These are my questions for them:
1. If you had to choose a final meal, what would it be and why?
2. Are you currently doing what you thought you would be doing in life and if not why not?
3. Has anything ever been a huge surprise to you and if so, what was it?
4. Where would you most like to travel to and why?
5. Which is your favourite film and why?
6. What irritates you most?
7. What is your guilty pleasure?
8. What song or piece of music never fails to cheer you up?
9. What do you like most about where you live?
10.Who makes you laugh and why?
11.Is there any one thing you’re determined to do one day that you haven’t done yet?

If you’ve got this far, thanks…….Now I can get back to writing!

Short and sweet.

When looking after children, whether they are yours or someone else’s, even a basic thank-you is rare.

Compliments are even rarer.

Today I am wearing a cobalt blue 1950s style summer dress. However, apparently it doesn’t quite cut it for my nearly 8 year old daughter.

‘Mummy, I don’t mean to be rude or anything’ (looks exactly like she’s going to say something rude) ‘but not those bits on the shoulders.’ ‘And one of them is folded over.’

I ask my eldest son. I get the scrunched nose and the ‘hmm yeah, don’t like them’.

If he who does not care about clothes is willing to pass judgement, then I’m definitely going to snip them off. They’re gone.

This experience doesn’t beat yesterday’s though. After two hours of swimming lessons, three sets of getting them through the showers (are you with me on why I want to go back to work?), I am sitting in my kitchen trying to get them to eat so that I can get on with cleaning up and get everyone to bed. Wine o’clock (or is it my laptop?) is calling.

This conversation with my youngest follows.

Me: ‘Come on, eat your fish, it’s good for your brain.’
(Thinks. Comes up with motivation through competition with siblings.)
Me: ‘It will help you learn to read faster.’
T is now eating.
Pauses. Looks hard at my face.
T: ‘Does it put those lines on your head?’

He's still a monkey.

He’s still a monkey.

Postscript: He did redeem himself later.

‘Daddy, Mummy is warmer than you. ‘She’s cuddlier than you’. ‘I love her more than you’.

You win some, you lose some…….

Minimalist or maximalist?

Mr Trebus was an obsessive hoarder who featured in a 1999 BBC documentary ‘A Life of Grime‘. He gathered so much stuff that there was barely enough room left for him to live in the house.

The British public warmed to him. Despite the filth, there was something about his humour and the way he could argue the case for every single item stacked in the towering piles he created, which were a miniature city for the local rat population. That and his catchphrase ‘stick it up your chuffer‘ which was readily bandied about to every council employee who ever came to the house to tackle the issue. If you read his obituary, you can see where his problems might have stemmed from.

So, you might ask, why am I writing about him?

I’m no minimalist but not a compulsive collector either. However, I do admit to having trouble letting go of ‘stuff’. Until very recently I had emails going back to 2001. If you look in my kitchen cupboards, it appears that I am prepping for World War three. If the nuclear Winter ever comes to Oxfordshire, I will be ready with my five giant size jars of Marmite, ten different kinds of pasta and twenty tins of tinned tomatoes.

My daughter is the same. I recently cleared out 40 boxes from her bedroom. In them, you might find a collection of pebbles, dried flowers, jewellery, small plastic toys, drawings, and lipstick. There is no apparent connection between the things she has collected but they are very consciously put together. They have meaning to her.

Maximalist living?

Maximalist living?


This cannot be a peculiarly female trait but on clearing out my Granny’s loft, my Aunt found amongst other things a packet of unused Harrington squares (the very best quality pre disposable diapers/nappies available at the time), a set of crockery riveted together to within an inch of its life and some beautiful old lace cuffs and caps which must have belonged to her Grandmother, or even her Great Grandmother. There were also toilet rolls stuffed in cupboards everywhere and probably a hundred of those free hotel wash sets from my Grandpa’s travels round the globe throughout his working life. So maybe there is in my family, an inherited tendency amongst the women not to want to throw things away.

The Doctor on the other hand, comes from the ‘slash and burn’ school of thought. Growing up in the forces, his family moved constantly and he would find himself coming home from school to a different house from the one he left at the beginning of term. Nothing extraneous was kept by his parents, nothing. If it didn’t have a practical use, it went. He has very few things from his childhood. There’s no box of toys for our children to rummage through, no history for him to reminisce over with them.

Or show home perfect?

Or show home perfect?

So I am left wondering, why do some people keep so much stuff and others nothing?

I try my best to live by the William Morris quote ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful‘, but as my eldest son puts it so eloquently: #epicfail.

Pretty much everything I own has a memory attached, even the ugly stuff, so I will always have an inner struggle going on when I know the house needs a clear-out.

Which side of the fence do you sit on?

Changing colour.

I haven’t been able to write for a while due to a bad case of the mauves. This is something in between the blues and the mean reds.

For those of you that haven’t heard of the mean reds, see below: audrey

Holly Golightly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?

Paul Varjak: The mean reds, you mean like the blues?

Holly Golightly: No. The blues are because you’re getting fat and maybe it’s been raining too long, you’re just sad that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?

Paul Varjak: Sure.

Holly Golightly: Well, when I get it the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany’s. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real-life place that’d make me feel like Tiffany’s, then – then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name! (Breakfast at Tiffany’s 1961)

Plus it gives me an excuse to put up a picture of Audrey Hepburn. And everyone loves one of those.

I tried to write a post about being made redundant a while ago. I couldn’t quite get the words out. After a long time in a well paid job, here I am at 41, three children at school, in a village where most of the other mothers are working, the Doctor’s career on the up as usual, and life has stalled. I know it’s not very serious. But for now I’m unsure where I fit. I’m working on it.

Other than my four year old repeatedly asking me to search for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that he thinks his dad has bought him and hidden in the house somewhere (he hasn’t) and winking at me every evening before bed saying ‘Remember what I said Mummy’, some other things have cheered me up in the last few days. This explanation of the current weather conditions in England is one of them. I also recommend going to visit Andra, 23 thorns and Ned Hickson, if you need a reason to smile.

It’s the small things that can dig you out.

The travels on my plate.

There are some advantages to the Doctor in the house being away. Which he is, a lot.

Mealtimes are just for me. Fishfinger sandwiches were one of the first things I ever wrote about on here.

Last night however, was a bit more elaborate. I enjoy my food, relish strong flavours and sometimes a meal can take me somewhere else completely in my head. Yesterday evening had me eating tofu with ginger, pak choi and jasmine rice. It was delicious. The recipe called for Sake, and the heady scent of plums, or is it cherries, took me straight to a Japanese snow covered mountainside.

Somewhere like this...

Somewhere like this…

I have never been to Japan and one day I would love to go. When the silence closes in around me, when the children have gone to bed and the quietness of the house hangs around me like a cloak, I think of places I have been to or might go to in the future. Those ‘glamorous getaways’ that I am sent emails about and that I can only sigh at before pressing the delete button.

Cooking has never been quite the same for me since I had children. My eldest son, at nine, is convinced that most food is actually poisonous. Black bits, green bits, fatty bits, lumpy bits? All qualify food for instant rejection. Don’t even mention fruit. Don’t even talk about it.

Then there is my daughter, who will gnaw on bits of meat like some kind of warrior queen. Provide her with a piece of steak that looks so rare that it is possible that the cow only just walked past the frying pan before ending up on the plate, and you will be greeted with a beatific smile. The little one is somewhere in between the two of them. I can never, ever, make them all happy at once.

Sometimes I like to forget the need to take a deep breath before putting a family meal on the table. Instead of waiting for a vote out of ten, or a thumbs up or down, I will eat a Thai curry with creamy coconut and the twang of kaffir lime leaves, remembering the time I spent in Bangkok in my twenties.

I will smell the rich enveloping fragrance of a lemony, buttery roast chicken and recall Sunday lunches for fourteen at my Grandma’s house, getting slightly tipsy on homemade ginger beer, and being allowed whipped cream from a can on my ice-cream for pudding.

Hand me a paper parcel of fat golden chips and freshly battered cod and I will be instantly transported to a pebbly Suffolk beach, on holiday, the sea so far away from where I am now.

I can’t wait until my children really start to love their food all the time, as sometimes they show me they do. They are missing out. In a world full of diet shakes, calorie counting and low fat, low taste, are you?