The wonder of a Wall

Saturday 9 November 2019

Today marks the 30 year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. What an iconic event it was; the lasting symbol of a wave of revolutions that swept the Eastern Bloc in Europe at the end of the 1980s, whilst in China, by contrast, the popular demonstrations demanding greater political freedom were crushed by the authorities in Tiannamen Square. And all of this happened in my lifetime. Thirty years, gosh these were such moments of living history, that I still can remember where I was. I heard about the events in China in a Youth Hostel in Singapore, backpacking across SE Asia. (Here are some of the (many) pics!) By the time the Berlin Wall fell, I was back at University, watching the incredible images on the TV, feeling stunned, scared and inspired by the power of people to change the world.

And I’ve been privileged to walk this earth at the same time as other hugely significant people too. I also remember where I was the day Barack Obama was elected and the day the first TV pictures appeared of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. Unthinkable drive and determination, resilience and resolve to fight on and make this world a better and fairer place. It is awe-inspiring.

When I was a teenager, trekking and travelling and exploring new places, life felt fantastic; exciting and full of promise. Faced the challenges of growing up, shouldering responsibility and the daily grind of working life, I have sometimes felt a little lost however. So it’s good to pause and be more outward looking. Because today, the remarkable people in this world and the momentous events I’ve witnessed, make this seem like a wonderful and precious place to be and I simply cannot wait to see what the next few decades bring and to play a part in it…

Fridaaaaay!

Friday 8 November 2019

What a week! I raise a very well earned glass of Vouvray to making it to Friday in one piece.

I love to be busy but when, at the end of the week you cannot be sure what any of your kids have done for food, you know one of them went to a Mathematics Lecture in Manchester but not how they got there or back, you know that two of them have been doing important assessment weeks but have no idea how any of it went ….its clear that you have not spent enough time at home.

It’s been tough decisions about my personal life. It’s been concerts. It’s been rehearsals. It’s been late nights at work. It’s literally been something every night and the wheels have slightly come off as a result. On two mornings this week, Small Boy has run out of uniform. Today he ran out of dinner money. I’ve lost my work shoes. I’ve helped no-one with revision. When I called to see how Spaghetti Bolognese was going on Tuesday, it sounded like World War 3. There’s even a cry for attention from the car as Windsor’s dashboard announces that ‘Oil Maintenance is needed shortly!’ It’s just not good enough. Time to say ‘no’ to anything non-essential next week.

But it’s Friday night. The best moment of the week. We do takeaway. We do The Apprentice (on i-player.) We order some more uniform for Small Bay. I book my car in for a service. I listen to news about lectures, trips and school exams. I cross a few things off next week’s calendar. And I feel calmer. My head is clearer. My heart is lighter. My mood is high. I love Friday…

November blues

Monday 4 November 2019

November gets off to a sad start. For various reasons, I decide to call time on the relationship with the rather nice man I met several weeks ago. Everything tells me it’s a sensible decision. Everything tells me it’s the right decision. But it is very much a decision of the head; and that can’t stop my little heart from plummeting into the depths of missing and loss for a few days.

I miss his smile. I miss his lovely voice. I miss our long chats about nothing and nonsense. I miss feeling special. For now I just feel pretty down … and I know that I have probably made the rather nice man feel pretty down too. Breaking up, as a teenager or a middle-aged mum, it’s just never good!

I know I’ll shake it, but for this week I’m allowed to be sad. Let’s face it, if you don’t care enough to cry…what is the point?

Sealant is tricky!

Friday 25 October 2019

I sashay tipsily through the front door, after a fantastic night out, to find that, whilst I have been at a wine event sampling ‘A Taste of Italy’, Prom-dress daughter has spent her evening assembling all the new furniture for her brother’s room. He has a chest of drawers. He has a bedside table. He has a trendy clothing rail. It looks terrific! I stand open-mouthed, in awe of her DIY prowess. I am bowled over with surprise and gratitude and overwhelmed with relief that this is one home improvement job I won’t be involved in. The household is only just recovering from my recent misadventure… with the bathroom sealant!

As it is half term and the teens are away, I earmark the start of the week for the task of repairing the sealant in the bathroom. I ordered the cartridge weeks ago and already, with only a few cuts and minor injuries, I have cleared the old sealant out. There’s a short delay, as I find I have no sealant gun. But the oasis that is ‘Screw Fix‘ is but minutes from my home, and within the hour I am proudly unwrapping my first ever sealant gun. The instructions seem clear and I confidently snip open the correct sections of the cartridge, hook up with YouTube to uncover the secrets of loading the cartridge into the gun and I am ready. I feel euphoric! I feel invincible! I actually pose in front of the mirror, like one of Charlie’s Angels, brandishing my gun.

“You are good!“, I tell my reflection with a cheeky wink, ” Let’s go and seal that sink!”

You’d think at my age, I would have learnt that pride invariably comes before a fall!! For I have indeed successfully snipped open the cartridge seal and the applicator nozzle, but I what I have failed to do, is to secure these two parts back together. As I start to to pump, the sealant seeps gloriously out of both the top and bottom of the applicator and plummets heavily into the sink. I try to remove it, but discover that silicone is sticky. It sticks to everything. My hands, my clothes, my hair, the sink, the floor, the door. In desperation, I manage to re-fasten the device and stem the flow, but I coat my hands, arms, body and bathroom even more completely in the gruesome glue. And I don’t stop here. For some unfathomable reason, I choose to plough on, ineptly firing sealant, sealant and yet more sealant at the gap in my sink. It is one almighty mess. With a face drained of colour and a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, I survey the carnage… it has taken me less than 10 minutes, to completely ruin the bathroom.

I scrape the silcone from my hands with a towel, head to the kitchen for an emergency cuppa and put in a mildly hysterical call to one of my friends. By the time the rescue squad appears, I have managed to clean the floor and some of the bathroom units. My jumper, however, is in the bin and the sink itself is a horror story of silicone mingled with my blood. I am lead away and placed onto kettle duties.

It takes a good 2 hours for my heroic pal to restore and re-seal the bathroom to it’s former glory. I am still a sticky, sorry specimen of gratitude as I pour us a celebratory glass of fizz. My friend tells me kindly that ‘Sealant is tricky!‘ and I vow to never go near it again…unless perhaps Prom-dress daughter is at home!

Magical Manchester

Tuesday 22 October 2019

The teens return from a holiday with their dad tomorrow. That gives me 24 hours of blissful freedom and I spend them exploring my home town. It’s a day that comes as close to perfect as you could ever hope a day to be. Sometimes you don’t need to travel far for new adventure and experience, sometimes your just need to open your eyes and see what’s right under your nose.

My friend and I hop off our tram and straight into the Northern Quarter’s characteristic chaos of cafes. The Manchester skies are unusually clear and blue and we perch on high stools at an outdoor grilled cheese bar for a quick lunch stop. It’s simple, speedy and mouth-wateringly delicious and happily replenished we take a leisurely stroll through the lovely Victorian streets to a concert hall for a lunchtime recital.

I am not sure that I’ve ever been to a lunchtime concert before and it blows me away. We step out of the hustle and bustle of city life to enjoy an hour of peace and some beautiful piano playing. Mozart and Chopin fill the hall and fill my soul. I am transported far from all the worries and niggles that fill my mind on a daily basis … it is just amazing!

Manchester is famed for its lively bar and cafe scene, indeed it was recently dubbed “the most hungover city in the world”. So without too much difficulty, we find ourselves a bar to discuss the concert and over several glasses of Merlot, review the playing, catch up on news and generally while the afternoon away until it’s time to catch the tram home again.

I feel relaxed, happy and, at least for today, free of all responsibility. My mind is stirred, my heart is too. This is city life at its best. A 2019 Time Out survey ranked Manchester 15th out of the ‘48 Best Cities in the World to Visit’. Well I challenge those Time Outers to find me a city on this planet or beyond that can give me a better day than the one I’ve just had…

London Town

Sunday 20 October 2019

There is no better way to recharge the batteries than a change of location and after a terrific weekend in London, I feel like a new woman.

It’s the start of half term and the teens are away with their dad, leaving me free to hop on an Intercity train and head for the capital. It’s a change of place and a change of pace and it a few days to just be myself rather than an overstretched and sightly frazzled single-mum.

In under 2 hours, I am at Euston, meeting an old Uni friend and catching up over coffee. Armed with our Oyster cards, we head to Tate Britain for Mark Leckey’s O’ Magic Power of Bleakness exhibition. Leckey’s ambitious and theatrical show, takes us on a nostalgic trip through his younger years, and as contempories, his nostalgia matches ours and we lounge on the floor letting the clever images wash over us and feeling the year roll back, until we are teenagers again too. I really enjoy it and reminiscing about my childhood, with someone else who was also alive at the time is the perfect way to remind myself that, much as Iove being a mum, there is also a side of me that’s…just me!

And over a two day trip, London just seems to exude effortless style and endless opportunity. There’s great food, great cinema, great art, great strolling along the elegant streets and great striding through the muddy paths of the glorious Hampstead Heath. Above all there’s great company. It is a rare luxury having someone to talk to about everything from work and kids, to books and art. My Uni friends are a clever bunch and I do miss the College climate of learning and knowledge. Who knows, maybe I’ll go back and do some more study one day?

But that’s for some distant day, in the future. It’s ‘back up North’ that I’m heading now on the 16:17 from Euston. Mark Leckey’s familiar yet forgotten images of the the 70s, 80s and 90s remind me of how easy it is to overlook the happy memories stored in the ordinariness of the everyday, when you have the right people in your life. And even as we leave the bright lights of London behind and head for the less inspiring facades of my corner of the North West, rejuvenated by my short break, I am looking forward to being home again.

England 6 Racists 0…

Monday 14 October

Stunned!

I arrive home pretty late this evening. As I turn the key in the lock, an excited Small Boy comes flying out of the lounge.

Mum, come quick, they’ve stopped the match!”

And they have. England in a Euro 2020 qualifier against Bulgaria. England under intense public scrutiny after a defeat in their previous match with the Czech Republic. England leading this game 2-0. England have left the pitch, in unison and in protest againt the racist chants from the Bulgarian fans.

Small Boy and I watch open mouthed. The team come back on and then leave again 10 minutes later continuing to make a stand against the unacceptable level of abuse from the terraces. I have never seen anything like it. Such a move from the manager of England, a nation obsessed with football, seems truly ground breaking and very brave.

The half time commentators applaud the action. Small Boy is adamant that they should have stopped the match completely, and on my facebook feed, many of my footballing friends agree. Nonetheless, it is a bold and decisive step from our team, executed with dignity and unity. The match does resume and England do go on to win 6-0, But this is a night when they have won a far more important victory. This is a night when they have drawn a line, so that never again will footballers have to endure racist abuse, simply because they are ‘paid a fortune’ and expected to ‘turn the other cheek‘ and ‘beat the racists on the pitch‘. This is a night when, to quote Back Pages it’s ‘England 6, racists 0’. This is a night when I feel truly proud to the English.

Now we’ve seen what’s happened and what’s good about it is it has got a generation of players now, not just black players, a generation of players and people that won’t tolerate it any more,”

Ian Wright 2019