River Of Slime

Peter Venkman: Hey, how many of you people out here are a national monument? Raise your hand, please? Oh, hello, Miss!

I find myself thinking about Ghostbusters II a lot these days.


Bear with me.


I’m an 80s baby, and the Ghostbusters films were truly awesome. My brothers and I loved them. What’s chiming for me at the moment is the storyline of II.

In case you’ve never seen it, the basic idea is that there’s a river of supernatural slime flowing underneath New York City and feeding off all the negative emotions of the population. Everyone’s bad temper, anger, misanthropy and hatred is creating a monster.


I’ve been thinking about it a lot because it feels very much like what we’re living through at the moment. There’s an awful lot of negativity online, in the news and in the streets. In London everything feels uneasy in a way it hasn’t in all 18 years I’ve lived there. It might just be me that’s changed because of having a baby, but I don’t think it’s just that. There’s been a shift.


In the film there turns out to be a pretty brilliant solution. The boys take the “mood slime” (turns out it reacts to positive emotions, too), use their guns to fire it all over the Statue of Liberty, put on some banging tunes and have her walk through the streets of Manhattan with everyone singing and waving. They bring some positive energy back. It strikes me that we could do with something like that, albeit a little less bonkers. Back in the day, when I was teaching, I got to create my very own positive mood slime all the time. I helped my colleagues bring kids and staff together with singing, positivity and love every time we put on a show or a concert. It was our very own Ghostbusters II finale, twice a term. On a larger scale the 2012 Olympics did the most amazing job of bringing everyone together. People from all over the country volunteered and welcomed athletes and visitors,and for three weeks we were the place to be. It was amazing.


Right now there’s a lot of head-shaking. A lot of people ask the question “What kind of world are we bringing our children into?” and I understand the concern. I sometimes find myself sinking into anxiety at the dark place the world seems to be right now. So I’ve started turning off the TV, ignoring the trolls and filling my timelines with positive people. I’m living life on much smaller scale for the time being, and it’s helping. 


Moments with Arthur are constantly amazing. Today he has clapped for the first time, kissed his cousin on the head and held her hand, reached out his arms for his grandparents, uncle and aunt and made “brum brum” noises playing with his toy steering wheel. Not bad.


Wishing you a whole river of positive mood slime.

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Manchester

This morning I wanted to get my thoughts down about what happened in Manchester. Writing has always been the best mode of communication for me, and helps me make sense of things. It’s only relatively recently that I’ve begun sharing it with others. I know that the only people who will read this are my friends, and will forgive any half-formed thoughts.

Having Arthur sometimes feels as though I’ve been given the keys to the great, vast secrets of the universe. After four years of the toothache of infertility, this little boy’s smile cracks me open with the force of a hundred suns. It is mind blowing. You know those moments when you feel at peace with everything, at one, you don’t know what with and you can’t explain it? Those moments when you feel that maybe God really does exist? I have those daily now. It is overwhelming. And along with the love and peace and wonder comes something different, and darker.

Fear.

I know now what it must feel like to have a child caught up in something like that. The heart-stopping, gut-wrenching horror of it. To not know they are safe. I have always loved the children I teach, and I have always been able to imagine it. Now I know. There is nothing I can do, or say to make things better, but I grieve with those parents and all I can do is try not to feel it too much, because it is not helpful, it solves and changes nothing. I also know that the bomber was a boy once. A baby who giggled and rolled and cried and needed his parents, just like mine. And that’s perhaps the worst thing of all. That I feel for him too, and for his family, even though I will never understand his actions.

But after all that, under all that, is compassion. The beauty of humanity, the very best of us is always seen just after these all-too frequent events. The vigil in Manchester, Tony Walsh’s beautiful poem, the cab drivers who ferried people from the venue for free and helped distraught parents find their kids. The outpouring of love on social media.

So, today, I’m going to try a few things that might help me with finding my own compassion.

If I see something on social media that makes me angry, I am not going to reply. Hate breeds hate, and if I comment on it my friends and family will see it. I will put down the phone, close the laptop. I will choose to see only the wonderful things the internet brings us. I will go for a walk and look at the summer leaves. I will tickle my son and revel in his laugh. In this way, I will be kind.

If I find myself getting too sad about the news, I’ll turn it off. I’ll call my husband, or Mum, or a friend. I’ll take my son to a cafe and mingle with other people, the good ones. I’ll listen to good music and read meaningful poetry. In this way, I will be wise.

I love Manchester. I have so many happy memories of that metropolis. Choosing my piano and flute from Forsyth’s. Affleck Palace. The fountain near Victoria Station students used to fill with bubble bath. That bar where they serve cocktails in goldfish bowls. Long boozy lunches and Christmas shopping with my friend Ben. Those things are all still there, and always will be.

Today, I will head out into my own beloved city with my lipstick on, my head held high and my little son in his sling. Because that’s all any of us can really do. Humanity is terrible, but also beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

One Month, No Sugar



Time for a January review. It’s been a crazy busy month, and the first one where I’ve got a bit more into baby groups and getting out and about after my c-section. I’ve made loads of Mum friends, which has been lovely. It also feels like it was a really, really long month; but then when was January ever short?
My challenge for this month, if you can remember all the way back to when the decorations were still hanging limply from the drooping tree, was to give up sugar. Not in that mad way some real hardcore people do, cutting out everything except steamed fish and veg because ‘even fruit has sugar’. No, I just cut out all the fun stuff. The stuff I was glorying in after my very sicky pregnancy, when I could barely hold down an ice-pop. We’d been relying on sugar far too heavily for most of November and all of December, back in the days before little Artoo had any kind of sleeping pattern at all; and we were existing on chocolate, caffeine and carbs. I figured cutting out one of the three major food groups would probably be a good idea. 
Turns out, surprisingly, that it wasn’t too hard at all!* I’ve always been the kind of person who, when hungry, prefers something savoury over sweet. The sweet stuff for me has always been merely because it tastes nice and gives that instant lovely rush.
The good news is that giving up sugar has meant that I’ve lost a few pounds, my skin is clearer and my energy levels much more steady. I mean, they’re steady at a fairly low ebb thanks to Artoo, but still, steady all the same. Husband was dragooned into the challenge by his sister and mum, and it turns out he found it easier than expected too. 
This month: yoga every day. Stay tuned. 
* I must confess to one transgression. When waiting for a bus with another pram-pushing friend (you can’t fit more than one pram on a London bus, so if someone’s already one with one and there’s two of you trying to get on you’re stuffed), she ran to get us a coffee. Forgetting my challenge, said friend also bought a Cadbury Creme Egg for each of us. In the name of market research, because I’d heard they changed the recipe, I ate it. It was delicious. 

A New Chapter

It’s 7.03am on 31st December 2016. Though really it’s so dark it could be the middle of the night. I’ve just spend an hour cuddling my seven-week-old son, as he’s been restless since his last feed at 5. I check his breathing religiously, every time I wake, which is often, even when he slumbers peacefully. I’m overwhelmed by responsibility to this tiny, beautiful person who relies on me for everything, rewarding me with the occasional wonky, drunken, joyful smile. For 35 years I have been responsible for no-one but myself, unless you count pets and my husband. I had a freedom I never knew or acknowledged; the freedom of walking through life able to go wherever I wanted, do whatever I liked, spend money like water and drink cocktails at 5pm, or even 5am. It was a beautiful life, a glorious life, with adventures and family and friendship. It was never “less than” just because I didn’t have a child. Still, the thought that I nearly missed out on this part, on the milk, the stories, the night feeds, the magic of Christmas with my own child, makes me catch my breath. I nearly didn’t have it, so nearly.

At seven weeks after his birth, life is beginning to get something of a rhythm for us. The early days of feeding constantly, of a newborn with no concept of night and day, of constant visits from relatives and friends are coming to a close. The three of us have developed our own world where the tiniest things are important and hold the universe together. We enjoy our days, with trips to see friends, walks in the cold when we’re all wrapped up, endless box sets on Netflix and Amazon with warm cuddles and eating one-handed.

When I was a kid, my Dad would get home around six, just before tea was ready. I’d be in the kitchen with Mum, chatting to her about the day and whatever drama had befallen me and my friends at school. I can still smell the cooking and see the steam on the kitchen windows, feel the warm hug of it. When my Dad’s key turned in the lock our heads would turn to him, and he’d come in bringing the cold, the smell of chewing gum and some treasure or other he’d picked up. He’d tell us a tale from his day whilst rummaging in the bread bin and thickly buttering a crust, talking between bites and handing the bread to me to share while Mum got cross we were spoiling our tea, shouting for my brothers to come down to eat. It was a feeling of complete wholeness, of family, of being surrounded by love. It’s security, belonging. It’s the feeling I get now when I hear my husband’s key in the lock and know we’re giving that to someone else. It’s a feeling we pass on to our children, if we’re lucky enough to have them.