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?
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 soon!’ 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 Boy. 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…
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. I cannot wait to see what the next few decades bring … and to play a part in it…
What’s worth fighting for…
Wednesday 20 November 2019
As part of my working week, I am sent on a course that involves a ‘cultural tour’ of Manchester. What a memorable day! It showcases the industry, the creativity and the inspirational spirit of equality that has shaped my home town. It also challenges my thoughts about the sort of future I want to fight for. Not so much for the teens, their futures seem full of excitement and of endless opportunities … but for me.
We start at the Whitworth Art Gallery, deep in University land. There is gallery upon gallery of stunning displays: photography; textiles (in honour of the proud industry of “Cottonopolis“); a Cezanne exhibition… but the gallery that really blows me away is “The Reno“. This celebration of the famous Moss Side club, not only charts some significant shifts in societal attitudes during the 1970s, but also sums up the journey we all make from youth into adulthood and responsibility.
“What was your club called?.… Where it mattered if it rained cos your hair wouldn’t hold up. And what was his name? Before your wage. And the person you became. That bears no relation to the person you were then. When you believed in magic. Ours was called The Reno “
Well mine was called The Hacienda or The Cellar at Uni. And I was a very different person back then. But gosh … do we really stop believing in magic… do we really give up on happy endings…. is our teenage self really lost forever?
My mind is still whirring with this one as we stride off to visit other Mancunian treasure. The Manchester Art Gallery, the National Football Museum and finally The People’s History Museum. We see great objects, some beautiful, some innovative, some highly emotive. We watch film archives and listen to iconic commentaries. We relive the struggles of women, of working men and of ethnic minorities for acceptance and equality. It’s a treat for our eyes, our ears …. and our hearts.
At the People’s History Museum, exhibitions are united around the theme of ‘Ideas worth fighting for’ and the contribution that ordinary people have made to building a fairer world where all are valued . It’s inspiring and very much epitomises Manchester and these streets that have seen Peterloo, Emmeline Pankhurst and the founding of the Co-op Group. For a Mancunian, there can be no better way to close our cultural tour.
And so ends a lovely day. But in a few weeks it will also be the end of a decade. As we welcome the start of a new one; and one in which my role as the primary carer for 3 children will end, I ask myself ‘What will I be fighting for?’ And I just don’t know. But I am sure that I want to make the most of the time I have left and try to make a story…. a story about ideas worth fighting for or just a story about making mischief? I really cannot decide. But I do want a story worth telling. In the words of ‘The Reno’,
“We are all pages in the book of our time on earth.”
Baroque n roll !
Sunday 25th November
I arrive home from a film music concert…where I’ve had to dress as a pirate! As ever, at the end of a concert, I need a drink. And as I sink down onto the sofa, almost-festive Bailey’s in hand, I realise how tired I am.
I have done concert after concert this month, which has meant rehearsal after rehearsal, which has meant late night drink after late night drink. And it has taken its toll. A ‘baroque n’ roll’ lifestyle when you are the only adult in the house isn’t always the wisest choice.
I think the problem for a single parent is this. When you take on a hobby, which is essential to your well-being I might add, there is no-one else at home to take up the slack . So on top of all my rehearsals and concerts, I am still doing all the cleaning, cooking and ironing for four. I am doing the bins. Doing the tax return. Raking the leaves. Helping with homework. Helping to prep for GCSEs, UKCATS, driving tests (and next week Uni interviews.) Sorting out asthma checks and trips to the orthodontist (I am so often at the local hospital, I actually have a loyalty card for the WRVS cafe!!) Oh and did I mention I also hold down a pretty demanding full time job.
I’ve always said that I fear boredom more than fatigue but I’ve reached the point where I am really struggling to get up in the morning and I am very snappy and irritable …with everyone…most of the time. Something’s gotta give and I resign myself to the fact that, for December, this is my music. In my inbox is an invitation to play for a Christmas concert in 2 weeks time. It even has a fee. I push away angry and resentful thoughts about the life my ex-husband leads these days. I blink back a few self-indulgent tears and start to type a polite decline…
Its beginning to look a lot like….
Saturday 30 November
Love, love, love the season of goodwill. Sparkly lights. Christmas coffees. Everybody keen for a meet-up, a catch-up and a get together. Today, even though it is technically still November, heralds my first festive outing, and I just can’t wait!
My tram delivers me to Victoria with forty minutes to spare. Feeling ready to get straight into the party spirit, I opt for the warmth of a station bar and order a glass of Malbec. I fish out my Kindle and for about 5 minutes, attempt to look the very picture of sophistication, reading my novel and sipping my wine. But it’s Mansfield Park. I’ve been struggling with it for weeks and this afternoon the torturous timidity of Fanny Price just doesn’t hold my attention. Instead my mind turns to recent events.
It’s been quite a week! Mum has been in, and thankfully, out of hospital. My work run-buddy has suffered a nasty car accident but, in her inimitable cheery fashion, seems to be coping with the bruises and severe whiplash. And my eldest has made it through a first University interview. That was quite an ordeal. Much has changed since I journeyed off, 30 years ago, to impress admissions tutors with my abilities to solve mathematical problems. For the 2019 interview, we prepped for days on medical ethics, NHS hot topics and our insights into life a doctor. My eldest then had to survive the MMI (Multi-Mini Interview) with 7 stations of challenging questions and the occasional role play. By the time she eventually made it home, following a 3 hour inter-city train journey and 2 hours of Mancunian tram delays, she did just burst into tears. Hopefully the interviews will get better with practice!
Phew, no wonder I’m ready to let my hair down. I savour the final moments of my Malbec and then step out. Not sure if it’s because of Black Friday or Pay Day but the city is packed and pulsating. I make my way through the throngs to find my friends and together we dive into the merriment and madness ….