We all get wider…

Friday 18 November 2022

This week, I concede that none of us can stop the march of time….

Its all begins back in August, with the arrival of my niece’s wedding invitation,

Dress code: black tie”

My offspring all hit the shops, finding finery and sharp suits that will also be worn for uni balls and (for Small boy) musician gigs. But for their old single mum…gosh it’s a good few years since I needed anything quite so formal! In fact I have to go as far back as my former (slightly more) glamorous life as a married woman, when ex-hub’s job occasionally afforded the occasion for a posh-frock.

Hang on a tick” I cry, “I think the odd outfit may still be (gathering dust) in the wardrobe!”

And indeed two of them are, both, to shamelessly name drop, worn originally for royal occasions! One is brown and one … ahh one is a sumptuous green velvet number with a scalloped neckline and fitted floor length elegance!With great excitement I try it on and fall instantly in love with the gorgeous thing again. There is just one little snag….the zip refuses to proceed past my waist!

But ‘it’s only August’ think I! The wedding is months away and I resolve to trim back into a dress I previously wore in the previous millennium (and before children were even thought of.) I resolve to rediscover the body I had 25 years ago.

So, I run, I stretch and I scrunch. I spurn delicious buttered break-time toast, toil through the working day fuelled only by miserable sachets of cup-a-soup and track each morsel on a calorie checker app! Alas, none of it makes even an ounce of difference. So when I am out for a drink with an engineering friend, recounting my lack of progress, and he offers to ‘construct me’ back into the garment, I decide, after laughing fully out loud, that enough is quite enough. It is simply never going to happen! The figure I was in my late 20s just has to be consigned to the history books.

Is it of some comfort to read that the struggle to shift a few pounds for other women ‘of my age’ is a fairly common one? Why yes it is! Much is written on the subject and Everyday Health’s article ‘5 reasons its harder to lose weight with age‘ it typical in outlining: age-related muscle loss, hormonal changes, slowing metabolism, general busyness and lifestyle changes as key factors. I am also cheered by some findings too that a ‘bigger butt’ is also caused by widening pelvic bones. In summary, with a mixture of rueful regret and a fair dose of relief, I reason that accepting a changing shape is just all part of growing old gracefully.

So tonight, I have a final Friday night strut around the kitchen in my lovely green dress (clipped in with washing line pegs) before packing it away to donate to the local hospice. I also review the brown number, bought a good 10 years after the green and a hopeful dress size larger. It may not be quite as glamorous or ‘show stopping’, it may be the colour of my old school uniform, but it is still very nice, allows me to move, has a nice swirly skirt, ticks a re-use recycle box (I’ll possibly announce it as ‘vintage’ to sound a little more fashionable) and … it fastens! So bravo for the brown and wedding here we come…

Getting life in perspective …

Sunday 23 October 2022

My mum has her first surgery and comes home to recover. It is not the end of the story. Hey this is the big C, is it ever going to be the end of the story? But for now; just right now, before Tuesday’s hospital visit and next Monday’s operation results, the cloud that has defined the last few weeks lifts and I feel… happy!

Yes, not just ‘okay‘, the luke-warm version of wellbeing I often settle for, but actually properly happy. My mind is only lightness, my mood upbeat, and all the little things in life seem joyful.

I do nothing special with the weekend. On Saturday, I run with my run buddy. Small boy and I hang out in the garden hot tub, putting the world to rights. I cook curry for my mum and drink some (appalling) fizz a work colleague gave me mid-week. On Sunday, we take the tram into town to shop Dinner Jackets for a family wedding, mooch around the music stores and browse the book shops. The Squares are decorated with dainty Halloween lanterns. We dine on Pad Thai noodles, steak sandwiches and terrible pies and … it feels fantastic!

I guess it’s relief, a welcome respite from the stress and worry of the previous weeks. Or possibly one of those profound pauses in life when you (momentarily alas) cast aside the trivia that often takes up so much our time and focus instead on the things, and most importantly, the people who really matter. ‘Getting life in perspective’, I think it’s called. Well for however long it lasts…I am going to enjoy it…

Middlesbrough

Saturday 1 October2022

When your children spread their wings and head off to live and study in other towns and cities, one very nice outcome for you as a parent is the chance to travel to and explore these new places too…

My Eldest is on placement in Middlesborough this year. Whilst she will admit to missing the bright lights of Newcastle, one upside is that she is a good hour closer the me than usual, so it is very easy to pop over for a day visit. And that is exactly what I do this weekend.

“What shall we do first?” asks my girl, as I rap on the door of her student house around midday.

“Food please!” I reply, hungry after my drive to this corner of North Yorkshire.

A short 5-minute stroll takes us to a great cafe where it is the famous local delicacy ‘parmo’ for my daughter and a truly delicious three-bean chilli for me. So good is the food that I am tempted to try the pudding menu. But my eldest is full and I ruefully remember, my (pretty ambitious) quest to get back into a dress I last wore in the previous millennium(!) for my niece’s wedding so I too forgo a further course.

Instead, we wander into the town centre and waste a happy half hour shopping small luxuries that are beyond a student budget but well within ‘mum-treating’ range.

It is briefly back to the student house to drop our purchases before we hop into the car to explore a ‘pretty beach‘ my Eldest has passed on her weekly GP visits.

And so it is that I discover Saltburn; what a little gem! We park the car in front of an elegant terrace of Victorian grandeur and descend to the cove beneath. Marked out by the imposing Hunt Cliff, the beach may well have been a centre for smugglers in a bygone era, but today is the perfect spot for a bracing walk along the windswept sands. Despite it being the first day of October, hardy children are playing in the streams and paddling in the sea, you could probably surf on a slightly warmer day. We traverse the sands and rocks and then reward ourselves with a drink in a bar overlooking the sea.

Thereafter it is back up the very steep hill to the car and as we stop to catch our breath, we spot the far better way to make this ascent; the Saltburn Cliff Tramway. This small tram-car, was first opened in 1884 to replace a vertical hoist and is now the oldest water balanced funicular still in operation in Great Britain. It is a must for our next visit!

As the Autumn sun begins to fade, we return to the student house and, after a fine cup of tea, I it is time for me to head home. What a lovely way to spend a Saturday …

Whose job is it to correct my kids manners?

Friday 23 September 2022

Shouldn’t that be me?

Now let me be clear, I am in no way suggesting that no-one else can ever challenge my offsprings’ behaviour. Take school for example; without questions I would back staff to intervene to promote values of manners, kindness and respect. Nor do I expect socially unacceptable behaviour, such pushing to the front of a bus queue to be ignored. In this event, I would applaud the driver for sending any of my charges straight back to the end of the line. No, I am concerned with one scenario only, that being when I am actually there … even in my own home! Surely, oh surely; that is my domain?

I certainly thought so, a kind of unwritten rule of inter-parental respect, and, hence, on 12 August when I hear the topic raised by journalist Nina Warhurst on radio 5, I am quickly cheering her on.

In my opinion” she posits, “if a parent is present then it is no-one else’s job to tell a kid off

Spot on Nina” I contribute on Twitter. The nation, however, is more divided. Endless contributors call, text and tweet-in to assert their right to, (surely the only word for this is) interfereif they spot a minor out-and-about with their family who dares to drop a P and Q or, heaven forbid, leaves an elbow resting on a table! The self-appointed etiquette police are passionate, casting themselves as the gallant guardians of British values and the very fabric of our society.

So I am aware that not everyone is with me on this issue however, here is why this single mum would, politely, like you to ‘butt out‘ if you’re in my home or see me with my family and think you can improve our behaviour or manners.

My family unit is close knit one. I’m likely to be biased but I really do find my children remarkable, resourceful … and very kind. And I love this. I am also not afraid to admit that in our world these values are often prized far more highly than etiquette. When for example I arrive home exhausted to find that one of the trio has made tea and tidied the house as a treat, my heart overflows. And do you know what, if someone then eats with their elbows on the table I am absolutely going to ignore it . Because I want to recognise and value the kindness and not mar the moment with relatively trivial nonsense. On the memorable day, back in 2017, when I forgot to leave work to collect Smallboy from the year 7 pantomime and he set off home alone, in the December dark and rain, his young sisters had to set out to find him. We were all so overjoyed to finally see his tiny, bedraggled figure heading up the hill, that we did celebrate by eating in the lounge with our feet on the coffee table and … even phones out! My kids are a well behaved and acceptably well-mannered lot but every now and again the moment is not about manners.

Additionally, I would just never dream of commenting on other children’s manners either whether their parents are present or not. Let’s take a trip down memory lane to parties and sleepovers. I have not been afraid to set a standards on ‘going to sleep’ and have been known to burst into the room, at 3am, demanding that sleepover rebels (usually led my one of my own brood) ‘cut the noise and get off to sleep‘. And of course, I have stepped in when there is a threat to safety; on the occasion, for example, I awoke to the horror of an 8-year old Smallboy and his sleep-over friends, jumping from successively higher steps on the staircase into the hall, I stopped it on the spot! But table manners and standards of politeness … no, not ever!

Why not?‘ I hear you cry. For me, the better question would be ‘Why? Most of the time, I wouldn’t have even noticed, I always saw a child and friend, not a checklist of dos and don’ts. Even if I did, I have no idea why a young person might not be saying ‘thank you‘ as I serve the party tea. They could be too terrified to speak to ‘someone else’s mum’. They might be taking their cues for behaviour from the party host and, if your children are like mine, when little they tended to show off quite a lot, whenever friends came to stay! But above all, it is simply not my place and it is not the time. Nobody has sent their children to my house for a lesson in etiquette; they have come to have fun!

And the notion, of not letting manners dominate and take the joy out of a situation is one I occasionally puzzle over when my trio visit their ‘down south’ family. For my in-laws are true devotees of the etiquette handbook – even elbows on the table at Maccies is frowned upon! Upon their return from a trip to Centre Parks with ex hub, I still recall a furious Prom dress daughter recounting the tale of her brother being made to sit down, write out and recite 10 table manners every morning before he was allowed to join in any holiday activities … which I found incredibly sad. Because he hadn’t packed his little suitcase and gone on the trip for lecture in 18th century decorum, he’d just wanted to spend some time with his dad. But hey, ex-hub’s domain and his values!

But they are not mine! I know that for many ‘manners maketh man‘ but it is ‘morals that maketh this mum’ and that’s a flag I am sticking with! So whilst I respect that not all agree, I am unshakeable in my belief that in my home or if I am present, I do know best because I know my children best. If someone is in my house, steeping in to ‘help out’ and correct my offspring’s manners or behaviour, however well intentioned, they need to hear that it does not feel supportive it feels presumptuous and judgemental.

When I do need help, because we always do on occasion, I will ask for it. Until then, ‘No thank you!’

When fortunes are not written in the stars …

17 September 2022

Horoscopes; I don’t know many who really believe them but I know lots of people, myself included, who read them! If you’re like me, they make a quick, fun, scroll item with a morning cuppa on the rare occasions when you have the time to wonder what the day might bring.

And so it is that this morning I am greeted by this exciting news…

“You could feel like a millionaire today, Pisces. Money matters seem to surpass your expectations. You might want to spend time fixing up your home or perhaps shopping for yourself..

Well, even general cost of living challenges aside, after the recent run of luck I’ve had, this is so far from the truth that I nearly splutter my tea across the table! So come with me astrologers, as I recount the ‘money matters’ of this particular Piscean…

First my car; poor old Windsor! Transporting me to the rehearsal for a local music festival, my trusty Toyota find himself reversed painfully into a post. Main light smashed, bumper crunched and several hundred pounds needed to restore his rear end to its former glory.

Hot on the heels of his trip to the body work garage, Windsor is soon in the woes again. The engine management light glows yellow. A very nice RAC person comes around to the house and diagnoses a possible fault with the GDPR … or is that the EGR valve. I google the likely cost, gulp in panic and when the light thereafter goes off, hold my breath, cross everything and have been tentatively driving about, hoping for the best, ever since.

Thirdly we turn to Small boy. He starts college in an uncharacteristic wave of enthusiasm. After one week, he is shopping files and highlighters, leaving me to ponder what has happened to my laid back boy. In week two… he is actually seen using them, colour coding extensive notes on complex chemical compounds, and planning time for revision. Seriously, where has my son gone?

“I’m starting as I mean to go on” a serious Small boy explains, “and I’m going to need a new laptop!

Well this is very true. The battered old grey beasts I bought for both of my younger children in Lockdown have long since given up the ghost. But the thought of funding this purchase from a bank balance already hit by car repairs, fills me with despair so I text his dad.

But before ex-hub can even respond, comes the fourth financial challenge of the season and it is Small boy again. This time a rather nervous and apologetic voicemail from the home landline informs me that the great goon has left his iphone 11 on the bus!

“ARGHHHHH!”

I am still embroiled in this one. Mum the detective is on the trail of the bus driver to whom, someone at college reports, the phone was handed, a couple of stops after Small boy got off. Mum the realist has contacted the phone company to put bars on the device and my insurance company to find out how much they (and I) will doubtless be forking out to replace the phone. If they accept our claim at all that is as, not once, but twice in the last 6 months they have already paid out for screen repairs to … the very same iphone 11!

Hence, am I feeling ‘like a millionaire today‘ with matters financial ‘exceeding my expectations’? Errr, that would be a ‘no’!

On the other hand, tonight is a Lotto rollover so perhaps I should squander my one remaining fiver on a ticket? More probably I should stop reading those horoscopes and buy myself a cheap bottle of plonk to ease the financial pain. But hang on a tick … did they not mention something about ‘shopping for yourself’! Maybe there’s some truth hidden in the mystic words after all…

A new era …

10 September 2022

Gosh; a momentous week!

A new prime minister and a new head of state for the country. On Monday it is all about Liz Truss and a political lurch to the right. On Tuesday I feel trepidation at her early proclamations. By Wednesday I am wide eyed with terror. But as Thursday draws to a close an even bigger story breaks, the queen passes away peacefully at the age of 96 and a historic 70 year reign as our monarch draws to a close.

It dominates the news reels. The cost of living crisis, the rail strikes, postal strikes, barrister strikes … even the football fixtures make way for a brief period of calm as the country looks back on the life of the woman who was part of our world and history for seven decades. A reassuring constancy, ever dignified, ever diplomatic and often at the centre of an eventful family life.

Yes, one reason I think that, royalists or not, we can all relate to this moment is that the nation knew her as daughter, a wife, a mother, a grandmother and a great grandmother. Many of us have known first hand of family love, family ups and downs, the pain of family loss and … it resonates.

It certainly feels poignant for me, because Thursday 8 September, is also my late Dad’s birthday. At a time of change and new challenge locally as well as nationally, it is the perfect time to visit his grave and spend some time in the peace of the cemetery thinking out loud and hoping that, somewhere out there, he might be listening.

I tell him of the national stories and also update on news closer to home; Prom-dress daughter and her new Edinburgh flat, my eldest finding her feet on hospital placement, Small-boy starting sixth-form, Forest back in the top flight of football and … of course my lovely mum, still bringing light, laughter and happiness into the world.

It is very therapeutic talking to someone who just ‘listens’. Feels good to re-ground myself as daughter, mother and friend. A firm foundation on which to prepare and look ahead to the new changes and opportunities that Autumn and Winter may bring.

All too soon it is time to head home, but as I turn to walk away, I remind him to ‘look out for the queen‘….

Well done son!

Thursday 25 August 2022

This Thursday, the gentle giant, affectionately know as Smallboy, collects his GCSE results … and they are cracking!

The entire squad bundles down to school for support, crammed into my Eldest’s 3-door car, (alas, Windsor is recovering from an encounter with a bollard in Bolton … a story for another day) because, that is what we do and because we get it. Get the pressure of high expectation from: school, friends, family. Everyone expecting you to have done well, to have ‘sailed through‘ to have ‘smashed it’. It is a lot to bear at the age of 16 and the car journey is pretty quiet.

Our phone clocks move to 09:00. The school doors open. Off he goes and, after 3 years of blessed GCSE respite, it is ‘welcome back’ to that tortuous wait in the car for me! Smallboy later tells me that,

I kind of knew it had gone well mum because as I went through the doors one of the teachers told me to ‘wait behind at the end for a photograph’

But there is none of this reassurance for those left outside. Stomach churning, I waive aside my daughters’ suggestions of ‘music‘ or ‘playing a game‘. I try some experimental ‘positive chanting’ but soon fall back upon the familiar and am completing my fourth decade of the rosary when we see him ambling across the carpark, giving us a shy thumbs up and hopping back into the front seat.

It is simply a super set of grades! He gives a modest shrug, his face breaks into a smile, I ruffle his curly locks and we head off for a Maccies breakfast to celebrate.

And so, as a parent, my encounter with GCSE examinations, revision and results days comes to an end. Three very different experiences, not so much with the results days but with the examination period itself. This final one, without doubt, the most laid back and … let me get down with the kids and say, ‘chilled’ ever. Few dramas and a very relaxed (which I found alarming on occasion) approach to revision. Typically, I’d arrive home and open with,

Have you started revision yet? You’ve got Chemistry tomorrow

To which my son would usually reply along the lines of,

Don’t stress mother, it’s only 7pm… plenty of time!

I did put my foot down about mid-week socialising but he still went out most weekends. I also supported the schools insistence on attendance and did not consent to my son’s pleas to ‘phone and ask for study leave’.

Did any of it make a jot of difference? I guess we shall never know. But, on supporting school policy, I was never going to budge. I am unspeakably grateful to our local high school for many things and this includes the knowledge, the love of learning and the encouragement to aim high that they have instilled in all three of my offspring. I cannot thank them enough for this because, as a single parent, life is a tough old trek and self-doubt always only a thought away. Their resolute input has, without question shielded my trio from my lone-mum fears of ‘daring to hope’ and contributed to them becoming just lovely young people, with amazing friends and bright futures. So rather than questioning any edicts over the years I have been happy to trust and that has certainly paid off.

So let’s finish this post where we started with the one and only Small boy. Enrolled at sixth-form and starting an exciting new chapter. Well done son, you enjoy this moment …

The parent … as a gardener ?

Tuesday 26 July 2022

Gracious me gardeners, I need your help!

About 6 weeks ago, a pupil bought me this beautiful rose, accompanied by an utterly delightful card.

It’s called Lovely Lady,” she beamed, “because you are a lovely lady!”

Well, look what has happened to the poor thing since I brought it home and planted it in the garden!

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Help! What to do? I’ve watered. I’ve fed. I’ve sprayed. But the once-lovely lady continues to droop. Every morning and every night, I have to face that desperate, bowed stem and … I feel dreadful.

Is the rose simply a reflection of me?‘ I ponder in a mad moment, ‘devoid of all energy and drive and just dragging myself towards the end of term?’

Or.. am I just a hopeless gardener?

Probably the latter, which would not be so bad, but for the fact that, in a similar vein to my pupil, several writers find strong parallels between gardening and parenting.

Children’s author, Katherine Halligan, in her post Why Parenting Why is a Lot Like Gardening, describes her transition into life with a family as follows,

As I gave up all notion of control and surrendered to the (happy!) chaos, I discovered I had probably been wrong all along. Nature has its own agenda, just like children do. And children, like plants, tend to thrive in spite of everything I do wrong.

Much, as ‘Lovely Lady’ is clearly not in the thriving category at the moment, I do enjoy the rest of Katherine’s article. The notion of learning on the job and just ‘jumping in at the deep end’ make pretty reassuring reading for any parent (or gardener.)

Mostly I simply muddle along, going on instinct, hoping that weather and circumstance will favour my wild guesses …”

And it is a version of the idea of working with, rather than trying to control the complexities of life, that highlights the parent’s role as a gardener for child psychologist Alison Gopnik in, The Gardener and the Carpenter. ‘Which kind of parent are you?’ she challenges us to consider, gardener or carpenter?

The “carpenter” thinks that his or her child can be moulded. “The idea is that if you just do the right things, get the right skills, read the right books, you’re going to be able to shape your child ….”

‘The “gardener,” on the other hand, is less concerned about controlling who the child will become and instead provides a protected space to explore…”

Which one are you? Which one am I?

I decide that I am probably a mix of both and my kids agree. I quite like the idea of the gardener and the carpenter but find them more useful for describing behaviours than people. Hence in some situations, I approach things as a ‘moulder’ and in others, as a supportive of the ‘explorer’. Hey it is an analogy after all. At least I hope so, because if not, given my lack of skill in either domain, things don’t look too rosy for my offspring!

Interesting as the reading is, parenting is not my problem on this occasion… gardening is. And none of this solves the dilemma of wilting ‘Lovely Lady’. As far as I can see, my only options now are, pruning, supporting with bamboo and … a miracle?

Meanwhile, all suggestions welcome!

The cupboard was bare…

Monday 18 July 2021

Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard, To fetch her poor dog a bone. But when she got there the cupboard was bare, And so the poor dog had none.

Well, I may not have a dog but, when you’re down to a jar of piccalilli, a few tired old carrots and half a cucumber, it’s time to admit that you just cannot put off the supermarket shop any longer!

Gosh it has been a busy few weeks!

Look, I am a fan of ‘busy‘ and this particular brand-of-frantic starts brilliantly because it offers, in large part, ‘freedom from routine’ for me; always a winner. Some great playing, in big concerts and smaller groups. Several great nights out. Even a stay-away for work.

As an added bonus it is all wrapped up in a bow of lovely weather! Our northern lands, bathed (until today’s Saharan blast) in pleasant sunshine, providing the perfect setting for social drinks, afternoon strolls and basking away the occasional hangover!

Bliss and, to quote Gingerbread, the national single parent charity, just the tonic for the well-being of any busy parent,

Looking after the needs of your family can take all of your time and energy. Try to get some time to yourself every now and again to recharge your batteries. All busy parents need some adult time away from children, housework and chores

Is it just me however, or possibly a parental pitfall, but does there always come a point when ‘busy‘ tips into ‘just too busy‘? The scales certainly threaten to overbalance for me this weekend. A crammed calendar of activities on top of a full time job plus offspring casting me as the font of knowledge on: flat hunting, catching holiday flights and late night party transportation does finally frazzle my mind to the point where I simply need to stop and sit in a darkened room for a few hours!

And, in the end, as usual it is the daily grind of running a household which finally breaks me…

Yes, those bare cupboards. Not, I must confess the household chores! Keep it quiet but I have forgotten what they are! With one, sometimes two, university offspring in holiday-time residence, I’ve been very spoiled. They bob in and out, but even so have manged most of the: cooking, cleaning and even ironing, throughout June and July. And, used to surviving on a students grant, those girls are resourceful; eking a meal out of the most paltry of ingredients. But they are not magicians and, as I open the fridge today, I have to concede that enough is enough, we need food!

I mean piccalilli … picc-a-friggin’- lill! Surely a new (nutritional) low point !

So, as I am the only car driver, shattered or not, it is time for me to haul my weary limbs off the sofa and down to those shops! Wonder how the tale ended for Old Mother Hubbard ….

Family first…

Thursday 30 June2022

What parent doesn’t feel overwhelmed at times? Plus, if you are the only parent in the house … a mathematician could hypothesis that you face double the demands of juggling work, life and parenting!

Number theories aside, it is certainly one of those weeks for me. A chaos of day job, evening jobs, afterwork meetings and rehearsals collide with Small Boy’s college open evening and … prom! I find myself triple booked on most evenings, cannot see a way through and, after two really good months for me and my headspace, start to spiral into panic.

Two wise words from an old boss bring me back from the brink,

Family first”

That was always our motto when work and home diary commitments clashed. When you can’t do everything, which at times none of us can, move the most important things to the top of the list .. and for most of us, that means family!

In their article ‘Time Management Tips for Busy Parents’, the childcare company Bright Horizons, open on a similar theme. The key, they maintain, to balancing personal needs, family needs and the needs of your career is to accept that:

  • Not doing everything is okay
  • It’s all right to say no
  • You need to know what is truly important to you

Manage this, they claim and we will achieve the quality of life we are striving for “without completely losing our minds in the process.”

It certainly does the trick for me on this occasion. I decide that my son is the most important person in our household this week and, as a result, sixth-form open event and the school prom become our top, indeed our only, priority. Yes, I simply remove everything else!

Instantly, I can breathe and think again! Additionally, possibly because I rarely pull out of anything or maybe because most other people have also faced similar dilemmas, nobody else seems to mind either. The world does not stop turning and rehearsals, meetings and work events all carry on smoothly without me.

Does ex-hub ever feel pulled in 5 different directions?

I ponder briefly. Would he ever have to agonise about saying ‘no‘ to work colleagues and commitments? Probably not; but then again neither does he get to wander round our huge local college and share discussions of physics, philosophy, Chaucer and chemistry with our wonderful son. He also misses out on the proud memories of a handsome young man heading out to the prom surrounded by fun and friendship. I guess, the old adage, that you get out of life what you put in, rings true in every way that actually matters. So he can keep his quiet, self-centred life and I’ll hang on instead to my crazy existence.

So, here’s to ‘family first’! For accepting that I cannot always be perfect and keep everybody happy but I can always value and cherish what is really important and keep that as my main priority. All in all, that has got to be a pretty good way to live this life …