Tuesday, May 19, 2015

two new things

How weird is this: the Brit is in Johannesburg right now.

Now I know he went there once before without me (then we met, and forever after he has come with me or to me in South Africa), but now that he's taken on a project there, he is flying there a few times this year sans moi.

It's all quite weird. It's not like I am gagging to go right this instant (it's warmer here, from what I hear), and besides, my passport is sitting in the Home Office, but still.

Two new beginnings for me at the moment: Britizenship and a new very special mums group.

Tomorrow I go to Croydon to sit in five different queues to five different little windows, where I take a ticket, and amongst refugees, working people, spouses and everyone else, apply for my Indefinite Leave to Remain. And hope the jobsworth who has been there for 35 years with the chip on his shoulder doesn't give me a hard time.

Getting the paperwork has caused a motherlode of stress (How many times can one person ask one bank for the right bank statements? Thrice. That's how many.)

But I can hardly believe it - I can see my Britizenship. It's the dot that has sat on a five year horizon, which is now suddenly loomingly close. After my trip to the US in June, I will apply for my passport, and if all goes to plan (although, what plan ever has?), I should be a British citizen by August.

Anyway, one has to deal with the bureaucracy, paperwork and cost in chunks, otherwise one might lose their minds, and for now, the next step is sitting in the Home Office for nine hours tomorrow. If I get out early, I will go to the pub and drink a massive glass of wine. Because I took the day off. And I'm sure by then I'll need it.

In other news, I met the most inspiring woman last week. She lost one of her twin boys eight months ago. Hearing her story made me sob endlessly. It's amazing how something like losing a twin can connect you to someone who has been through the same thing, immediately. I know nothing about her life, but for the fact that she has been through hell and back with losing a child that most people seem to forget about.

She has also connected me to a group here in the UK who meet regularly. This is huge. To be able to meet other people who I can tell my story to, speak about Molly, hear their stories, every detail, and know that I am definitely not alone! This is massive. Our pain, grief and situation is so unique - to feel like I actually belong somewhere has been what's missing in my lonely little journey.

South West London is full of [smug - oh, I was one of them once] twin mummies. So to find other mummies nearby who have lost, is really a massive lifeline. There was a time where I belonged to twins groups, and after I lost Molly, my exclusive little clubs fell away. I couldn't belong to it anymore. I wasn't "special" like them anymore.

Now I have a new group where I can belong when I need to talk about my twins.
And they all just get it. I don't know how many people a year on average lose a twin. Maybe 1 in every 100 000 pregnancies? I don't know. But it's hard to find people that have gone through exactly the same thing, and who fight, just like me, to preserve the memory of their lost twin.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

things that didn't happen

A few interesting things have almost happened lately.

Almost. But didn't happen. Or haven't happened yet. I've just been made aware that if they had all happened, they would've shaped my life a little bit further, or set me on a different path or direction than I anticipated.

But here I am. And everything is still the same.

I nearly went to Greenland and Jordan this month.

Two massively interesting places that most people don't go to. Ever. One freezing cold; one boiling hot. Both would've covered the same kind of work project, and I would've pilgrimaged through both of them.

But didn't. Things came up, and schedules got bumped, and shifted around. Then in the middle of it all, I was sent to Madrid. (Which was nice, of course.)

I am on country number 49. And Christ, is it difficult (now with child) to get to my half century. Jordan would've put me there.

Greenland, strictly speaking, wouldn't have. It's a "crown state" of Denmark ( < --- wtf is that anyway?) Going to either of these places would've been completely insane and amazing to see. Such vast, crazy landscapes, both shrouded in mystery. Jordan ever-so-slightly almost dangerous, as it's surrounded by an ISIS hotbed. (er, all the very scary extremist countries.) Greenland, not dangerous in terrorist terms, but perhaps I could've put my leg through an ice cap. Or been eaten by a rabid sleigh dog. Or dry humped by a frisky Eskimo.

I wouldn't have travelled to either of these places on holiday, so going for work might've been the only opportunity I got. And for someone who is trying to go pretty much everywhere, I can't help but feel a little bleak about this.

I am meeting a mum who has also lost a twin, face-to-face for the first time.

While all the forums, groups and other screen-related support channels have been useful and a bit heartbreaking (if I'm honest), meeting an actual mum, here in London, face-to-face, who has also lost a twin is going to be...well, also heartbreaking and helpful.

A mutual mum friend has put us in touch, and having lost on of her twins, we already have so much to talk about and commiserate together. We are going for coffee this week with our survivors in tow.
It'll be good to really see how another person actually copes, what she thinks of day-to-day, how she shapes her thoughts around the whole thing, what her plans are.

I've only ever communicated with others who have lost a twin via email, a group or by phone. So sitting somewhere with someone else who has gone through it too  - well, I can't wait, to be honest.
It's going to be extremely emotional to hear her story. But I know she will also really hear mine.

We have a working garden.

It is a patch of spring, green grass, bordered by thick railway sleepers, and a sandpit craved into the flower beds, for Sebastian.
We spent the whole of Sunday out there, weeding, potting, watering, mowing and digging, while Sebastian played with the wet soil, ate a little, put rocks in his mouth, got grubby and dirty, laughed and crawled everywhere, just exploring.
Watching a child take delight in the outdoors and discover leaves and flowers and crawl around, is absolutely amazing.

 Sebby's sandpit.
We ate out there, had cups of tea and just marvelled in the fact that a garden - however small - really is food for the soul.

It's been a long, arduous slog getting the concrete out, finding more concrete underneath that concrete, then more concrete underneath that concrete, endless digging and raking, bagging the rubble, dragging it away, collecting top soil, then reselling the top soil, making it flat, and laying patches of lawn, fertilising it and watering it so that it would 'take.'

My husband did 90% of the above, and his hard work has really paid off.

Now if it could just be sunny a lot over the next few months, that would be great. I'd really like to make the most of what we have this summer.

Friday, May 08, 2015

the uk elections

It's a big day to be a resident in the United Kingdom.

We are (and have been, all night on and off, if I'm honest) glued to our screens as our general election results roll in.

I love politics. In another life I would've been a politician. (Or a forensic scientist. Two careers I endlessly think about.)

As a Tory, the results have been shocking. The polls have predicted anything but a Tory majority, and here we are watching David and Samantha Cameron enter the big door of Number 10 again.
 In the meantime, this is me about to enter the door of Number 10, in 2012.
 I was quite excited.
This is when I met David Cameron. This is me leaning on a wax sculpture of David Cameron at Madame Tussaud's in 2013. I was 9 weeks pregnant and had recently found out it was twins. I was also about to vomit, because morning sickness was taking over my life.

What I find interesting about elections in the UK is this:

1) Commonwealth residents can vote. Until I am actually British, there are a few things I can't do in this country. But I can vote, while the Americans can't.

2) You vote for the candidate of your constituency, not the prime minister candidates. My constituency is Battersea, which is a known 'swing borough.' Most of London's borough's are "safe Labour seats," due to the urban decay of many of the council-estate led areas of the north east.
As Battersea is quite equally divided (investment banker/yummy mummy types living next to poorer people in high rise council flats), it was really important to vote. I knew mine would count.

Jane Ellison has been re-elected as our MP, (a woman, hooray!), and while the Labour candidate had an extremely good campaign going on (hashtags, websites showing his family man status, young and affable), Jane has kept her seat.

And good thing too, if this is to be believed.

3) I arrived in Britain five years ago just after the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives formed a coalition on the eve of a hung parliament. A hung parliament was something shocking at that stage - it just didn't happen. And yet, all the polls predicted the same thing this time around.

4) With Labour's disastrous outcome (especially northern seats, with Ed Balls going for example, and closer to home at Twickenham with Vince Cable), there is a massive backlash hating on the Tories on Twitter.
This pisses me off.
1) This is a democracy. The country has voted.
2) If the shoe was on the other foot....Had Labour won majority, the Tories wouldn't have heard the end of it. It's part of the Marxist DNA, to rally everyone up and shout about victory from the rooftops.

5) Part of the reasons the polls were so wrong is because Tories don't talk about their vote. There's a shameful sort of stigma about being a Conservative voter. "Tories don't care about The People," is the general consensus by leftist voters, which is what I find to be one of the biggest myths of all.

While the Tories have tight reigns on the Welfare State (as they should), they still believe in it. So frankly, why can't Tories gloat about their victory? Because it's just in poor taste. That's why.

6) The most tragic element of this election is the state of the Liberal Democrats. The centrist party is all but completely in fragments. It's a sad state of affairs, that smaller co-operative and central-thinking parties just can't cut the mustard here. People still need a party to take a side.
I would've seriously considered giving the Lib Dems my vote had they simply had more of a majority. (In my constituency, the Lib Dem candidate doesn't even live here. And he probably pushed one leaflet through my door that stated his main policy was to reduce the speeding limit on our roads. Remarkable really.)

7) Scotland has been a major driver (if not the main driver) of this election, with Nicola Sturgeon sweeping through Scotland on the independence wave. Everyone believed that Labour would form backroom handshakes with the SNP - Nicola's party - and this just hasn't happened at all.

8) Nigel Farage sweats a lot. Must be all the pints he drinks.

9) As if by coincidence, I become a permanent resident of the UK this month. (And after my trip to the States in June, a citizen.) Not that I will ever be truly British.

10) British elections couldn't be more different from South African ones.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

maravilloso madrid

So, I haven't done much of Spain.

I spent a bit of time skiing in the Pyrenees in a tiny Catalan village in my gap yah, but besides that, it's one place that I knew I'd conquer one day but was never in a great hurry to do so.

British people love Spain. It's hot, the people are relatively friendly, and the food comes in hot pockets of deep fried heaven and/or cheese and ham. It's paradise for anyone coming in from a wet, grey place. A specific sector of British society sadly has the reputation of flocking to Spain in summer, baking themselves in the sun and going a bit mental while they do so. (Sun + alcohol + heat in large, uncontrolled quantities just doesn't fare them well.) 

And that is one of the reasons I haven't really done Spain yet. The thought of buying fish and chips on the Costa del Whatever in amongst groups of Northerners on stag do's, doing unthinkable things in the streets really puts me off. Lads on Tour in Benidorm is kind of why I've always preferred France.

Well, that's changed.

There are pockets of Spain - like anywhere - that I am happy to avoid, and there are authentic areas of Spain that are still very much Spanish in every sense of the word.

I flew over there on a press trip last week, and tore around the city on a cultural detente, stuffing my face in endless, delicious platters of tapas, and enjoying throwing around my basic Spanish in the lispy fashion that it is known for. ("Grazias" is actually "grathiath." If you just go around saying "th the the the" you can honestly get by.)

After two days of work, we wrapped up and I welcomed my boys to the city for the rest of the weekend. The Brit flew in with Sebastian, and I expected to see a haggled husband stumble into the hotel with toddler pooh running down his arm, an eyebrow missing, and a squealing child in his wake. Couldn't have been more wrong. Sebby was good as gold on the trip apparently.  Not even a squeak. Now, if that had been me...

It was a bank holiday weekend in the UK, so we had until Monday to walk endlessly around the city, chill out and picnic in Retiro Park, eat ourselves sick on the endless market food on every corner, and enjoy the perfect temperatures that is Madrid in May.

Damn but look at that ham.
Twenty-five degrees, warm, not baking, sunshine out. It is difficult not to love a place that was climatically perfect. When you're there.

Madrid is spread out. It's an expansive old place. Typically large, wide boulevards, framed by trees and colourful flowerbeds.

If you love shavings of artisan ham drizzled in olive oil and pepper (just try to ignore the trotter on the end of it); soft, creamy triangles of cheese, huge, bulging olives stuffed with anything you can dream of; potato 'croquetas' warm from the pan; potatoes slathered in salsa; more ham, and finally; hot, sugary sticks of dough - "churros" - dipped in a cup of molten, thick, custardy chocolate  - and this is just for breakfast - then you would love Madrid. If only for the food.

They don't do a decent cuppa tea or coffee, but they know how to serve plates of delicious tasters  - sometimes nine at a time - for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We ate and ate and ate, knowing that I wouldn't need to see another piece of serrano ham again for a long time.

I did a bike tour with my work group before the Brit and Seb touched down, which gave me a good idea of what to revisit and linger on when we had time to walk around for the rest of the weekend.

We hit up Malasaña, the hip part of town one evening ("Shoreditchification" comes to mind), with Sebastian asleep in his buggy, and took in a live rock concert and some food, while roaming the streets with the rest of the twentysomethings on a big night out. (Followed by suddenly feeling very tired and heading home to bed. My 9pm is your 11pm, childless person.)
Sebastian is starting to walk, with us holding his hands, and starting to casually start letting go of things. So we did lots of strolling around in parks with him, which is such fun to see - especially the delight on his little face.
 The fashion in Madrid. Mate. Amigo. It's all flowy, azteca, bold, yet muted colours and shapes-heavily bohemian, but somehow also extremely elegant and well cut. I never realised how well the Spanish dress until now. Also, baby clothes. The French and Spanish, hands down make the cutest baby clothes. We did a full shoot on location. [Well, to come.]

Mango, Zara - both Spanish companies. Lemmetellya, I shopped, and it was fucking bueno.
While there isn't anything specific about Madrid that defines it like other Grade A European cities/capitals - as in there isn't a "Gaudi landmark" like in Barcelona, or there isn't an Eiffel tower, or rows of canals like in Venice - it is a place I could completely see myself living in. Fantastised while slowly pounding the streets, living the vida loca. I could do Latino living. I really could.
They start the day at 10am, and they end it at midnight. With a two hour siesta in between. Isn't that a lifestyle we should all strive for? Obviously the economy is a disaster down there, and there are entire villages for sale in Spain at the moment - and it's perhaps no wonder when everything is on "Spanish time." But still.

The Brit and I were debating this over the weekend. Hot countries have poorer economies than cold, wet countries. Just look at Europe and how it's split. He thinks this isn't the reason why, for example, the recession has panned out like it has, and actually that the property crash is to blame.
I just think the amazing lifestyle the Spanish, and Italians and Greeks have, certainly hasn't helped fix the economy. And why should it? There's food to be devoured, beaches to be sat on, siestas to be slept, and the heat just slows you down even more.

Tranquillo baby.

Either way, when you're sitting there in the sun under azure skies, with your chops wrapped around a bocadillo, as you take in the terracotta architecture around you, then close your shutters and have a wonderful two hour snooze in the heat of day - completely guilt free - who gives a fuck about the economy anyway.
Spain. So fuckin' chill.

So. Madrid was nice. And I am definitely interested in seeing more of Spain now. If you can find those authentic little spots, tucked away deep in the country, I kind of get now why Spanish Fever is a very real thing.
 Tapas with Daddy. More cheese, ham and bread than you can shake a stick at. If I lived in Spain, I'd be the size of Spain. You get me?

Monday, April 27, 2015

anniversary numero dos

The Brit and I have been married exactly two years today.

"!", quite genuinely.

So much has happened and been squeezed into this relatively short space of time, it's easy to forget it's really only been 730 days. In all honestly, so much has happened that it feels like we have been married for 730 years at least ten.

Life was simpler then, we could be more selfish and we had more than enough asleep. But we are richer now - not necessarily financially - and not only because we have had children and harrowing/amazing experiences together, but that after all of it, we are still together.

We've been tested to the limit, and because this life is my life, I suspect losing a child so soon after getting married won't be the last 'test' we endure over the next few years. Hopefully it won't be as traumatic or affect other tributaries of our existence like this has, but who is to know what the future holds?

Today, we celebrate all that we have been through together and the fact that regardless of it, and everything beyond it, we are still together and still so happy to be a unit, and a family.

A year ago we couldn't really celebrate our anniversary like one would've hoped after one year of marriage. Sebastian was a month old and I was breastfeeding 8-9 times a day, glued to the couch, mostly. Wearing a dressing gown and a head of hair that hadn't been brushed for a week. I was also uncomfortable -  healing from my c-section - and because Seb was now in the full throes of colic (crying from 4pm until 10pm at night non-stop no matter what), so very, very utterly sleep deprived.

Needless to say, my mother was with us, and for the first time, I left the house. As in, beyond going outside to walk around the block in my pyjamas out of sheer frustration, anger, cabin fever and just to clear my head, I hadn't got dressed in normal clothes yet and left my street.

A month in, and I put on a dress and we headed out for two hours (had to be back at the end of that to breastfeed!), to an actual restaurant.

It was really really weird. For one, we could hardly stay awake. For two, I remember seeing lots of people doing things. Going about an actual day; attending to errands, walking along the pavement, enjoying cups of coffee at cafes, while our Uber glided past all of these social and bustling scenes. I had been cooped up for a month with my newborn and it was really quite shellshocking to see the rest of the world just carry on with their lives.

I remember turning to my husband and saying, "There's a whole world out here I completely forgot actually existed."

Sitting at the restaurant, doing something like buttering a bread roll, unfurling a napkin, ordering a glass of champagne (!) from the waiter was just so utterly bizarre.
And if I'm honest, our first year anniversary conversation went something like this:

"Do you think he's alright?"
Yes, I'm sure he's fine.
"I should text."
No, don't, it'll be fine. She'll phone if something's wrong.
"Should we have a cup of coffee? I'm feeling really sleepy."
Yes. Let's get two double espressos. And then another two maybe.
"Do you think one glass of champagne will make the baby drunk?"
No, not in two hours. Besides, it'll probably be good for him. Make him sleep.
"Do you think he's alright?"

We went for a walk along the river afterwards, and it just felt so weird. I guess the conclusion is: Having a baby just before your first wedding anniversary means you probably won't be physically able to celebrate it.

And don't even think about really physically celebrating it, if you get my vibe.

So. Fast forwarding to this year, I'm pretty excited that we are now all caught up in terms of being real people, living real lives in the actual outside world again with a pretty-much toddler. (Sidenote: not sure when the leap from baby to toddler happens, I see Sebastian as a hybrid model at present), we can actually celebrate our anniversary like (mostly) normal people.

Sebastian has given me his lurgy which he caught from one of the little critters at nursery I'll try to ignore that I'm feeling fucking fluey, and instead turn to champagne (definitely more than one glass this time) to anesthetise my fever.

We also plan to celebrate this (long) weekend - as we will be in Spain!

Hola amor.

I happen to be going to Madrid this week for work, so the Brit and Sebasticle are flying out on Friday to meet me.

Sunshine, chorizo and vino tinto you say? Felicidad.

Now that's how you celebrate an anniversary.*

*With a new(ish) family member alongside us, who has also never been to Madrid, so I'm sure he'll drink in the cultural experience in between mashing a banana into the floor and climbing up onto the furniture.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

behind the scenes of the baby fashion blogger

I have carpal tunnel syndrome.

Yes, it's a real thing even.

Hand, wrist and arm throbbing painfully, to the extent I thought I'd ruptured something when throwing around a kettle ball in the gym, then laughed out loud when I realised how little the kettle ball actually weighed and how I need to actually get serious about doing something about my arm ham keeping these bad boys toned up for the Dove's wedding in October.

Anyway. It's got somethign to do with using a mouse or phone or some kind of electronic device too much and straining the nerves. Well it fucking hurts. It's oretty debilitating having to do meetings, sleep, eat and write, swipe and tap away with an arm that's rendered useless for a few days.

Especially the one you actually write with.

But I have started a new side project regardless. It's helped to justify a;; the [fun!] spendage that has been made on Sebastian's baby clothes, and it's also to slightly take the piss out of fashion bloggers who pose against the walls of Somerset House wearing stuff that's hashtagged to shit.

I need to somehow turn this new gig into affiliate advertising, but my hand's too sore for that and I'm too fucking busy, so, priorities.

Anyway. here you go. This is what Sebastian Is Wearing. [Get the look!]

Let me give you a taste of what it's like photographing a diva. Might update this one more regularly than this blog. Easier. Less typing.

Thus far, Sebastian's outfits have been nicely documented outside, in the sun, larking about on the common. (It's spring! Did you not know?)

But, given I also have a job and have to do, like, everything, always, sometimes, like this morning, the photos are taken with my phone in the hallway. Or bathroom. Or spare surface.

If, like today, my model is completely uncooperative and has rivulets of snot streaming from his nose while he loses his shit against a cupboard, then we won't be doing an OOTD as regularly as we hoped.
 Hugely not into this.
 (OOTD: Dungarees by Next, t-shirt by Petit Bateau, high tops by Converse.)
 Going to throw myself on the floor in protest.

Or, like yesterday, I had the audacity to wake him up. The actual nerve - had to wake him up to take him somewhere, and he basically gave me the look of death all the way home.
 Why that's a lovely hairy eyeball you're giving me.
 OOTD: Hashtag "Don't give a shit."

Or, like how he is currently fascinated with the toilet. He flushes it, holds onto it, sticks his fingers into it - basically - I have to peel him off the family throne every morning. Thrice, four times.
 Photo shoot for OOTD yesterday. Model is sucking on Mummy's face brush next to toilet.
 Arty. Lone model staring whimsically at toy boat. Whilst hanging onto the toilet.
(OOTD: Hoodie by JoJo Maman Bebe, cords by Baby Gap, shoes by Trotters. Attitude by Sebastian.)
Then losing his shit and throwing himself onto the floor.

The life of a baby fashion blogger is a difficult one.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

opening the curtains

Was reading something the other day and was struck how honest and forthright the piece of writing was. I was transfixed. While I am always honest about one teensy percentage of my life up here, I choose to leave out the other 80%.

Mainly as it would bore anyone to tears. (Being a mother makes you instantly dull. I needn't elaborate.)
I'm also not 26 anymore. Which means I don't need everyone's opinion on every aspect of my being. As you age you just get naturally more selective about what you share.

I've always prided myself on being frank though. If I do choose to engage in a topic, I'll tell you everything, even if it involves pooh, or a wank or setting fire to myself.

So much of what I spill out on here these days is my grief and being a parent. I use this space to spew and talk about Molly, as there isn't another space. But, sometimes if I write too much about Molly I feel guilty about not expressing how much I love and appreciate Sebastian. If I go on too much about Sebastian, I feel guilty about not remembering Molly. It's a complex beast, this kind of grief, when you have one dead twin and one living one.

The journey isn't pretty or simple, and it never will be. But it got me thinking. It would be quite (fun? liberating? energising? synergising? stupid? risky? irreverent?) to give myself a shot of Truth Serum, pretend I'm sitting in a KGB cell somewhere in Crimea, and have someone interrogate me. About anything.*

So here we are. Honesty Hour (or Happy Hour*, however you see it):

What's your favourite colour?
It used to be red. It was red my whole life. Then two years ago I decided it was too vulgar, and now it's my favourite colour if I have to have one that isn't black, grey or navy blue.

OK, so you're emo.
No, I'm a Londoner. Most Londoners with any sense of style do red in summer or at a festival. It's just too stark. I take style fairly seriously these days - which is mental, I know - I'm a mum and have baby secretions and last night's supper smeared on my trousers - but I was told that you can never have too much black, and you should always wear black/muted colours in front of your fashion friends.

Right. Has grief bought you and your family closer together?
No. It's made me realise a few very important things. I've seen some true colours emerge, and while you'd think love would be the ultimate thing to throw at this situation, I haven't got that at all. I think there are two things that have happened. One, I am grieving and I have found that some of my 'closest' family members don't understand my anger or sadness or why I need certain dates and things to be acknowledged. I am the mother of two children, that's never going to go away. Some of them refuse to talk about 'it', and brush my emotions under the carpet without even knowing or asking. The second is, I've become a parent. This in itself means I have now experienced things my parents have experienced. I have a lot of questions. That haven't been answered. So in short? Losing Molly and gaining Sebastian sadly hasn't been a matter of one child lived and one child died and everyone lived happily ever after.

It's this.

How does your husband deal with the grief?
I am thankful that he talks about Molly and he expresses his emotions and anger. He acknowledges how I feel and he acknowledges her existence regularly, which I am so grateful for. However he deals with his emotions differently to how I do, and it's been tough on our [young] marriage. Losing a child is a dynamic that is incredibly complex and hard to deal with.

What scares you the most in this world?
Anything happening to Sebastian. Or my future children, if I have any. I am also terrified of getting cancer. That seems to be the illness en masse in this country. I try and live a healthy life, but I wonder if stress, sadness, anger all those negative things is what kills people, not what you eat or drink.

Is being a parent everything it's cracked up to be?
Parenthood is heavily romanticised, and most of the focus does lie on the fact that you love this thing more than anything you can even conceivably imagine - which is true - but I don't think anyone truly realises the impact it has on you when you have years of broken sleep and the changing dynamic of your relationships (spouse, friends without kids, parents, in-laws). You primarily exist for something else. Your sense of Self goes, and like yesterday, I burnt my fingers on the stove but couldn't stop and wrap it up - Sebastian was thrashing around on the floor angrily after I confisacted the candle he was trying to gnaw on.
That said, any mother would tell you she wouldn't change it for the world. I wouldn't. But I do remember the life I had before they were born, and the person I was before they came along. The things I could do. The freedom. The disposable income. Yeah.
But all I have to do is look at his face, and that stuff doesn't matter anymore. So I can't travel much anymore. So I can't go shopping at Ted Baker every month. I really don't care about that stuff like I used to.

What are some of the things you face as a parent that's lost a child that no one else knows about?
Those awkward conversations. Seeing one of the mums I used to 'hang' with at the twins club before they were born, at a local baby shop on the weekend. Having to see her twins, Sebastian's age. And try to duck out past the baby dungarees before she saw me, but I know she saw me.
Having to have that fake conversation when I see her that goes something like, "Hey, wow, the twins have grown....they look great...." and she kind of awkwardly feels she has to over-compensate, "Sebastian is so big! Wow he is amazing!!!!"....and there's a massive luminescent, glowing, neon pink elephant in the room as we have this futile little dialogue. To think there was a time when we used to speak about where we could get a two-for-the-price-of-one car seats and that one of our babies was breech...

Or the fact that the obstetrician delivering Royal baby number 2 (and one, for that matter) is the same consultant that advised me what to do with my twins when I found out Molly died.
It's all over the news at the moment as they wait for Kate to pop again.

He headed up my 'case'. Guy Thorpe Beeston was due to deliver them. He never did in the end, but he was the chief counsel on everything that unfolded from that fateful day on 18 March, and sat with me everyday to guide me through how he thought I should birth them. I had a lot of people advise me on what they thought I should do for their birth. He was the guy I chose to listen to. (If the Royal Family hire him, then his word was good enough for me...)

The fact that I suddenly seem to be working with a lot of Molly's at work. Not even a joke. At first I thought it was just because I noticed the name 'Molly' more, but it's not even that. Two new Molly's have shipped into the office and I am working directly with them. Everytime I have to respond to one of their emails or call them, or simply say their name, or even when someone else says their name, I flinch.

I can't tell anyone this random stuff. Who would be interested? It's not something you bring up in casual conversation. It's something that jumps out at me in my news feed, at the shops or in the middle of my work day, and just takes me back to a dark place. It's nothing to everyone else. It's huge to me. And this is why you feel I so alone - it's these things that make me feel like I'm running on a different hamster wheel to the rest of the world.

What's it like being back at work?
I am lucky to work at an amazing company. My career has always given me my purpose in life. Without it, I feel kind of rudderless. Even as a mum, who supposedly should have the most purpose in the world. 
I am very good with pushing things aside and managing to focus on work without anything distracting me. I miss Sebastian so much, but I don't allow myself much time to indulge it.
It's hands down easier being a Working Mum than a Stay At Home Mum. You run from pillar to post, but it is much easier. I want to be able to do both jobs well, even if it means I'm spinning 7 000 plates at the same time.

Do you have regrets?
So many.

Are you happy?
Truthfully? Half the time. 50% might not be great odds to some, but I choose to view this as a glass half full scenario, not a glass half empty.

What surprising thing have you got out of therapy?
To be kinder to myself. Recognise that I am good enough and I have done the best I can.

Do you miss South Africa?
I do and I don't. It's my fifth year here and I feel like, for the first time since immigrating, that I don't ache to go back there. It's quite foreign to me now. I am on the periphery of the politics, the statue bullshit, the loadshedding, the everything, and while I miss  - and always will - the sunshine, friendliness and beauty of the place, I think I have moved on now.

Not to say I feel like I am British. I will always be a foreigner here.

Your best attribute?
The ability to get on with almost anyone. If I have to. 

Your worst attribute?
I am mad.

Oh, you're mad. What keeps you sane?
Running. I run to feel happy, it's my alone time and it's another form of therapy. The bonus is that it happens to also help me lose weight.

Favourite things about living in the UK?
It's quite civilised.  Britain in the summertime makes up for most things. We don't have people shitting on statues or building whole estates with money that should go to the poor. You have five types of quinoa and five different supermarkets if you want it; there is choice everywhere. Fashion, shopping, so much weird stuff to see and do. A thousand brunch choices. You never worry about your safety, even if you're wondering through the common at midnight, a little bit drunk after three glasses of wine, with your iPod in, like I did the other night. I come across some very intelligent and funny - as in they are highly amusing - individuals everyday. Satire is admired here, and it surrounds me everyday. People are mostly polite and cheerful. You can pop over to Europe for lunch. Working here is fascinating for me - not the least, because I work with the media and the British press is a particular sort of beast.

Worst things about living here?
Standard Saffa complaints - the weather is a total balls-up (all forgiven when there is ONE sunny day), we all live on top of one another, property is crazy expensive, London's commute sometimes makes you want to kill yourself, too many people, people are too scared to rock any sort of political boat, so are completely passive aggressive and overly PC. Chavs and East End accents. My. Worst.

If you died right now, what will you see?
A lot of beach scenes in Thailand when I was young, carefree, unbaggaged. My beautiful son. His face. Everything about him. My daughter. My husband.

What's the best thing you could give to a mother?
Things money can't buy. Sleep. Love. Patience. Gratitude. Offer to take the baby for an hour while your mate has a nap. She will never ask you for this, even if you say, "Just let me know when you want me to come round." Just do it. Or even better - buy her a massage. That way she gets to sleep while getting pampered. Best present ever,  and from since last year, it's all I've really wanted in my Christmas stocking going forward.
Oh and a million pounds. To pay for private schooling.

* It should be noted that it was Gin 'n Tonic night in the Peas On Toast household. And I was three drinks in. 
It's taken me three days to gain the courage to actually post this.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

my new friend: the peephole

I'm going to sound like a proper weight wanker, but sorrynotsorry.

I've worked fucking hard for this, and finally, I am back in the jeans I was wearing in the summer of '13.

I'm not one to brag but fuck it, I was fat and pregnant, post-pregnant and frumpy and now I feel good about my body again for the first time in a year and a half.

It's taken the better part of three months, and I have [mostly very much] dieted like a freak and worked out like I'm training for a marathon.
And I have dropped two pants sizes. And lost 7 kilos. That's, like, a stone in old money.

Fucking right.

Someone told me my hips would never be the same [sadly true], but I could be the proud new owner of a gap - a GAP - if I played my workout right. Because when your hips realign for birth, they widen out like a runway, so while you're wide, you might adopt a new peephole between your thighs.

And today, in my new jeans, I took pictures of my crotch in the gym changing room, because I found my freakin' gap, people.
 My size 10s!
Say hello to my teensy weensy Gap.

For a while I was wearing a sturdy size 14 over my rump, and gradually whittled down to the pants sitting folded in the bottom of my drawer like secret presents I'm not allowed to open until an important day.

It's good to feel strong and fit again. This is what I did - give or take - for three months, and will largely continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

There's no secret method, and no quick fix. I lost the weight slowly, simply by moving more and eating less. 

Gym 3 x a week. Mixture of training, including stop-start sprinting, power walking up tough gradients, endurance running.
Cross-trainer, mixture of fast and slow.
Weights and machines: arms, legs, but mostly legs.

Calorie-controlled diet. One starch/carb a day.
High protein lunch, lots of veg.
Fruit breakfast or high protein breakfast with a juice and soup for lunch.
Veg and protein supper.

Friday I'd have a treat - massive piece of cake.  Sometimes I'd have a treat more than that. I'd be lying if I said I didn't.

I go out once in the week to meet up with friends or attend a work do, so factor in a few glasses of wine and things like tapas platters and finger foods.

On weekends, the diet slips a bit - we go out for brunch, or the Brit makes a fry-up, or we have a takeaway or something. Basically, weekends were made for falling off the wagon.

Ideally, I'd love to lose just one or two more kilos if I can. That would make me Bikini Ready not just Size Ten Jeans Ready. But given I ate a massive Easter Egg the shape of a cock (as in chicken, before you get tetchy) last night (I thoroughly blame my mother-in-law for giving us this massive chocolate beast and trying to make us me fat. Only my mother-in-law would give us a massive chocolate cock for Easter)....there's not much hope of the last two kilos shedding anytime soon.

I'm due to be in Spain in a couple of weeks, (sangria...chorizo....varied and beautiful cured hams...manchego cheese...), and would like my arss to see the light of the actual sun, so I aim to at least try and strut around in a bikini on a rooftop hotel.

that is the aim, anyway.

For now, I'm going to a gay bar with my cousin and Best Irish Gay Friend tonight to celebrate the fact that the sun has come out in this country finally. Hoorah.

Monday, April 06, 2015


Happy Easter folks.

We've been mainlining chocolate like heroin addicts; disaster for the diet, liberatingly great for the mind.

Easter is meant to be the dawn of new things, so it is no coincidence that it marks the dawn of a new vibe in our house.


My son turns 1, and inherits a new personality. I suppose it was going to happen at some point, but here he is. Easter Bunny took away my baby and has replaced it with a thing that throws himself on the floor in dramatic rage when I present him with anything he doesn't agree with.

After a [not tiring at all] game of Cat and Mouse with a plate full of mashed cauliflower, he aced me 10-0 by flinging it angrily all over the wall and cupboard behind him, splattering it and ricocheted it all over myself and my fancy chair.

Defiance. Cannot and will not, don't care what you bribe or offer.

Tipped off a Beaufort Scale 9 rage as resigned defeat and grabbed a biscuit for him and more chocolate for me.

Despite the temper tantrums, the boy is using energy like a gladiator at the moment, because he is benchpressing his own bodyweight. About 89 times a day. We are exhausted just observing this intense up and downing in front of our eyes, if anything my eyeballs have run a half marathon this weekend just watching this go down.

Play with a toy for 5 seconds, concentration span ends, pulls himself to nearest edge. Pull up. Stand, shimmy around, sit. Throw dummy across room. Excitedly go and grab it. Ram it into mouth with satisfied grin. Concentration span ends. Pull up onto nearest edge. Up and down. Up and down. Throws dummy. Grabs TV remote, waves it around to try and switch telly on. Pull up, down up and down. Then five more sets.

It's more entertainment than he's ever been, but throw in a temper tantrum, an attitude, general defiance, night wakings and then a ton of teeth-related whingeing and you'll have us: two knackered beyond fuck parents.

Those painfully dull but happy moments of throw the dummy/fetch the dummy and wave the TV remote around like he's Ghandi are why we don't paw at our faces and take 10 Xanax.

Plus he does smile a lot too, which is half gratifying.

But if this is the gateway to the years of tantrums and Terrible Twos, we are in for a long ride. Welcome to Parenthood. Two years in, another 100 to go and you can never resign.

Oh look, he just did another pooh.
This cloth thing he is holding? This is his dou dou, the thing he used to sleep with that covered his face. He will go nowhere without it. Nowhere. That includes benchpressing .
The sun has finally started shining on this dismal good for nothing "Spring" we are having, and couldn't come a second too soon.

We've eaten our way through the weekend, which is half gratifying. So has he. Growth spurt machine, the guy is decking two slices of toast, an adult-sized bowl of oatmeal and a whole fruit before it's even 9am. At least, that's what he did yesterday.
 Roasts, wine and chocolate. How else does one survive?
Easter 6am breakfast shift! Rise and shine, we are going to play and we are going to play HARD.

I'm loving seeing his little personality come through and how he is rapidly turning into, like, a proper human. But the defiance? That can go.