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. Does 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.

And 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 …

My bucket list!

Saturday 11 June 2022

Bucket lists? Well if you are anything like me, the very mention of the phrase used to conjure up images of slightly balding men in lycra, dangling from the end of a bungee rope, having a mid-life crisis. Definitely not my cup of tea!

So what has changed?

‘The bucket list…’ states a Stanford Medicine article, is ‘‘… a list of things that one has not done before, but wants to do before dying’’.

It’s a definition that left me perplexed. Yes, for years, I really didn’t grasp the notion at all. No procrastination or waiting until the grim reaper came knocking for me. If there was something I wanted to do, I’d pretty much go out and do it. And, busy as a bee, I gallivanted through life: learning, travelling, adventuring, performing, and falling in and out of love. It was.. amazing.

But then came parenthood and … single motherhood-hood. Wonderful as that is too, in so many ways, as I now contemplate ‘empty nesting‘ I realise that the last 20 years has extinguished some of my drive and daring and made me become a little bit invisible in my own life. As a single-mum, because the focus is never on you, I think that I simply forgot, over time, to have any hopes or dreams of my own. I forgot how good it feels to live life to the full, with aspirations for me as well as my children.

So last Summer, as a friend was explaining their creation of a list of ‘60 things to do before I’m sixty’ , it was like a jolt of electricity through my veins. As, she ran through some of the items, with me shouting,

Ooh, sounds great!’, ‘Count me in!’

an even more exciting idea was forming. Designing my own schedule of ideas; now that truly was intoxicating and felt like a missing piece of me being slotted back into place. I needed some goals of my own, some challenges to look forward to, some re-invention of my former self. I needed … my own kind of bucket list.

So here we go. It is not ’60 things to do before I’m sixty‘ because after 2 decades of keeping everyone else happy, I did struggle to turn the spotlight in my direction and think about what might make me happy. Instead, it is ten things to do in the next 24 months, which I figure is a good start could snowball into other ideas.

  1. Learn to play the oboe part of Elevazione: Domenico Zipoli
  2. Have a night out at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Soho
  3. Submit an educational article for publication
  4. Go to a whisky festival
  5. Drink beer at the Oktoberfest
  6. Sign up for German classes
  7. Raise money for The Samaritans
  8. Watch ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  9. Read Jane Eyre: Jane Austen
  10. Learn to swim underwater

And… as a cheeky extra,

11. Go skinny dipping!

Many wouldn’t appear on anyone else’s ‘to do’ list, but I am pretty confident that they are all things I’d love to do. Little bits of me, reflecting: my values, my passions and my interests, plus in the case of number ten, facing a life-long fear and … I actually cannot wait to get started!

A parent’s guide to the GCSE season …

Monday 16 May 2022

Fasten your seatbelts parents for the 5-week roller coaster of GCSE and Vocational examinations has rolled back into town! It is third time for me … so what are my top tips for surviving the next month?

Well if truth be told, whether your child is a driven revision machine, a last minute Larry or has their head well and truly buried in the sands of denial, I only have one piece of advice

“Remember to be a parent!

And simply put, that means being there. There to test a bit of revision if asked. Definitely there to turn off the x-box and even confiscate the phone on occasion. Absolutely there with emergency chocolate and an episode of ‘Modern Family’ when it’s been a ‘complete disaster’ of an exam and a sugar boost and laughter is essential, before you tell them to ‘park’ the paper and focus forward to the next one. There to hear all about the good days (and breathe again if only for 24 hours!) There to forgive the moods and soak up a bit of the stress. There with meals, and snacks, kindness and care and reassurance that ‘attainment doesn’t define us, but attitude does‘ so trying your best is all they need to do to make you proud. Above all – just there!

So in May and June, as I am the only parent available, I am dialling back the diary commitments, reducing rehearsals and running around Small boy’s schedule for a few weeks. It is only for a short time and, moreover, I am sure that it will also be pretty good times. Because going through challenging landmark events with my teenagers has always been this. A time to grow closer, to feel like an unbeatable team, to share a lot of laughter… and sometimes a few tears. Plus, I’ll admit in whispered tones, as a mum of fast-growing, increasingly independent offspring… it’s also nice to know that I am still needed!

So although I will doubtless be stocking up on the alcohol too, before week one is over, bring it on …I wouldn’t miss this for the world ….

There’s a hot tub in my garden…

Saturday 23 April 20222

Golly gosh; can my two girls shop!

As the Easter holidays draw to a close, I hardly recognise my own home! Cheered on, at times propelled on, by my daughterly duo of retail fanatics, not only does my conservatory proudly boast a new furniture but the weathered and worn plastic garden chairs have also been binned in favour of ‘zero-gravity‘ recliners. Have I taken leave of my senses? Well I just might have done exactly that, because the shopping frenzy all began….with a hot tub!!

Oh the hot tub! A fanciful notion floated several weeks ago, after some bargain deals bounced into the inbox. The only part the teens really play in this transaction, as my ‘older generation‘ head wavers and wobbles over such a luxurious item, is to confidently waive aside my worries and doubts and merrily shove me across the financial finishing line… and into the blissful outdoor spa!

However, scarcely has the froth subsided on our first dip in the bubbles, when purchase number 2 is in the boot of the car. I innocently agree to potter into town with my Eldest, to return a package to Next and pop into Boots for a new moisturiser when, lo and behold, my girl steers me into a store promising ‘unbeatable bargains‘ on garden furniture and I find myself trundling to the till with four new ‘zero-gravity‘ recliners with accompanying drinks table!

Mum, you have been looking for new outdoor furniture for years!”,

she smiles reassuringly, as I appear a little flustered. This is utterly true, but I had anticipated at least another half decade of looking and wondering and weighing-up before I actually made any daring dash to the cash-till. In addition, I am not at all sure what ‘zero’gravity‘ chairs even are! But, as we try them all out upon our return home, they are very comfortable. And, as my daughter points out, together with the hot tub really ‘freshen up the garden experience!

I know what you’re thinking, by now I had surely learned my lesson! But no, as Prom-dress daughter arrives home to swell the youthful and carefree ranks of the household, I am persuaded to head out to Ikea to replace a few broken glasses, replenish my dwindling supply of cereal bowls and try out the new plant balls’. Five minutes! We are there for only five minutes, before we are are snuggling on a new sofa and admiring the display of accompanying rug and table!

This is so comfy! Gorgeous!

You’ve been looking for ages, Mum”

“Don’t you just love it!”

“The poor conservatory has been completely bare for 18 months now!”

They do actually allow me to stop and consider this one, over (delicious) plant balls, mash and gravy. Possibly, I am distracted by the delights of my redcurrant jelly but equally the fact that they are correct and that my lovely, sunny, garden room has been an empty shell for a year and half does also register and I decide to go for it, rug, coffee table and all!

At the warehouse, things are slightly complicated as we discover that, despite endless permutations of collapsed seats and car-boot boxes and much hilarity as the three of us career around the carpark with the weighty beast, the sofa is never going to be squashed into my car. In now rueful resignation, I wave my credit card at the cashier and fork out for home delivery!

So here I am. But here’s the thing; the purchases have all be fantastic. We live in the conservatory now and wonder what we ever did before. The new garden equipment has been super-fun, long overdue and made the Easter holidays seem pretty idyllic. I’d go as far as to say that it has made me fall in love with my own home again.

Thus, as the clash of youthful exuberance and a dash of ‘carpe diem’ with my single-mum (crippling) caution has a clear victor on this occasion, I’ll admit that I am glad to have been defeated. Left to my own devices I would doubtless have a few more £100s in the bank, awaiting the proverbial ‘rainy day’, but the conservatory would still be an empty room and the tired old plastic chairs would have tempted no-one to sit in the garden this holiday. Why not ‘seize the day’ and enjoy a few sunny days right now. A trip to IKEA isn’t ever going to break the bank so when those rainy days do arrive, I’ll still be ready!

Nonetheless, the bank manager and I do heave a little sigh of relief as my two shopaholic students set off back to uni-land ….

Goodbye old shed …

Saturday 16 April 2022

I am blogging today, glass in hand, from a deckchair in the sunniest corner of my garden. It is a lovely spot but it has come at an emotional price… we have had to dismantle the shed …

I mean the battered old beast needed to go! The roof felt blew away a couple of years ago, the timbers has sagged so that the roof frame itself was hanging on by … divine grace and the interior was a jumble of cobwebs, damp rugs and other decaying detritus that no-one had dared to investigate for half a decade. Nonetheless as it taken apart, beam by beam, it feels a little sad and, as the children’s ‘Secret Club rules’ re-emerges on an inner wall my heartstrings are well and truly tugged …

The Shed; my very first purchase as we relocated from our ‘down south’ life back to the Northwest. Our rented property had a huge garden and whether out of guilt, panic or sheer hysteria, I decided to seal our move with an idyllic garden house for the trio of toddlers I had dragged over 200 miles to ‘start afresh’.

At the local garden centre, this wistful honeysuckle of a notion quickly descended into the typical tense scene most shopping trips with under 7s become. I located the shed that fitted my budget, a charming little house with windows and a latch door…my offspring had other ideas. As I reeled around wondering where on earth any of them were, they kept appearing inside the more deluxe end of the garden building market

“We need to get this one mummy, it has turrets and a slide… wheee!”

This one has two floors and lots of rooms … look look mum I’m upstairs…ooh we could sleep in it

I grabbed and yanked them back into line to show them ‘our little house’. Well, to say they were unimpressed is a complete understatement. Tears, shouting, accusations and, from Small Boy, a full on tantrum, lying on the ground screaming with fury and refusing to move until I relented and bought the ‘one with the slide‘!

I vaguely recall bundling them all back into the car, arranging delivery of my chosen shed and driving home …for a whisky!!

Fortunately parents, as we all know the small people have very short memories and when my ‘reasonably priced’ garden shed arrived, the household rejoiced and they spent hours in there, their own little house, the perfect setting for getting lost in imagination and make believe. Indeed as we resume the final farewell to the trusty shed timbers, we do uncover and even hang onto several treasures. Plus I finally solve the mystery of where my washing line pegs disappeared to all those years ago!!

But the truth be told, it is several years since any adventures have taken place in the old shed. As toddlers grew into teens, no-one took their tea out to the little garden house anymore, nor spent hours in there hatching plans and scrawling important ‘rules’ on the walls. No, it was relegated to a dumping ground for odd bits of garden equipment and a delivery drop-off for parcels. So, whilst always in my heart as the venue of some happy times and laugh-out -loud memories, it is time to move on.

So I sip from my glass and raise a toast to new ‘good times’ in what is, after all, a beautifully sunny spot in the garden…

Farewell little gecko…

Monday 21 March 2022

Sad times for us this week as Boris the gecko passes away very suddenly…

Our first reaction? Shock. It is true that Boris was poorly in the Autumn but, following a really successful operation and hours of careful care, medication and attention from Small Boy, he had been very much back to his usual self. So finding his little body lying peacefully, but very lifelessly, in the vivarium leaves us completely stunned and bewildered.

Then comes the realisation that he is gone and that sadly the ‘gecko years’ are over…

And what a roller coaster they have been. For lots of the time, Boris was the easiest of additions to the household. Happily hunting and feeding or basking and sleeping in his variety of caves and shelters. However, whenever anything went wrong … it was quite an adventure! And no; I am not talking about capers with the live crickets he fed on, although pursuing any nimble, high-jumping escapees around the house was certainly an experience! Nor the building of the vivarium, which, for DIY dimwits such as my son and I, was one very long evening. Far and away, our biggest challenges came with the two or three times Boris had ailments. The nearest vet for tropical pets was at least a 40 minute drive away (far longer in rush hour) and this lead to several epic trips, battling the Manchester traffic to make appointments after a long day at work.

Tense and tiring times? Absolutely … but also some of the best of times. Why? Because Small Boy and I lived this together.

My youngest child has always had a big heart, but his capacity to keep going, hold onto slivers of hope and never give up on our little gecko was utterly impressive. He definitely inspired me, on several occasions, to put aside my own exhaustion and dismay and … get on with doing what was needed. As for the long car journeys, although sometimes fraught they turned out to be lots of fun too. Singing ridiculous Gilbert and Sullivan songs (don’t ask us to explain why), treating ourselves to fast food at Maccies drive through as we finally turned off the motorway towards home and laughing our way through some utter navigational nightmares. It’s given us an extra bond, it’s given us some fine memories and , as I look back I realise that I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

So tiny Boris, although we feel rather low this week, we thank you for the life and joy you brought to our household over the last two and a half years. Sometimes it takes someone so small to remind us to cherish what is truly important; hope, family and fighting for the people (and pets) who matter. Rest in peace little gecko…

Beethoven, Mozart … and bliss…

Saturday 12 March 2022

After a stuttering start back into the post-covid world of music, I am finally fully part of a great concert…

The invite to play pops into my email inbox about 3 weeks ago. Not only a concert night, but also a pretty intensive schedule of rehearsals in the preceding week. I hover with indecision. Work is manic; the weather is grim, Small boy has mocks and ex-hub is visiting meaning that I would be free-er than usual, to kick up my heels for a boozy ‘Saturday night out‘. Yet, something makes me say ‘yes’ and I am so glad that it does because …I love every minute of it.

Of course it is crazy careering out for 7 -10 pm rehearsals after a ten-hour day at work. Of course parking in a large town centre is (for me) a flustering fiasco of QR codes and scanners. Of course I often don’t find time to eat and arrive at the hall shovelling down handfuls of Walker’s crisps whilst dealing with text messages from all and sundry. But; when I do finally sink into my seat on the stage all of that stops. The orchestra is a really good one and the three hours of rehearsal time are intense, absorbing and a complete escape from the world outside.

So; the wind may be howling. Small boy may need someone to ‘test me on Chemistry’. Boris the gecko may need a new UV light and some fresh crickets. I may have lessons to plan on the cosine rule. But between the hours of 7pm and 10pm, all of this noise fades away and my focus is taken totally with phrasing and shaping the symphonies of Beethoven and Mozart into beautiful music. And it is bliss!

Bliss to know that I have given time to a real piece of me this week. Bliss to be challenged and pushed to think about how every note is placed and played. And bliss, to have shut out the clamour of the every-day for a few hours to be part of melody, music and creativity. As one article, 10 reasons to join an orchestra, outlines,

Life is full of daily stresses. Work, family, bills, and other responsibilities can take their toll. Playing in an orchestra, on the other hand, requires a great deal of focus. For that reason, rehearsals and concerts can be a great way to divert your attention away from day-to-day troubles, stress, and to-do lists

The final concert is amazing. The audience clap and cheer the climatic Symphony and an emotional rendition of the Ukrainian national anthem.My mood soars. I feel happier and calmer than I have done for weeks. I am ready for the manic week ahead and, even more so, ready to say ‘yes’ to the next concert I am offered…

The Covid Christmas Chronicles

Wednesday 22 December 2021

Day three of the long awaited Christmas holiday and things are not exactly going to plan…

Ho ho ho! Did I dare to think that Christmas 2021 was going to mark a return to more festive familiarity; with the extended family WhatsApp whirring into December discussions about a month ago? Alas, no sooner have I collected both Uni girls from the station; handed round the glasses of seasonal Baileys and unveiled our new Christmas board games than…

I am floored on Saturday by a revolting attack of vomiting and severe headaches. Generally, there are few low level ailments that stop me; as a single parent of the past decade I’ve learned that being ‘under the weather’, duvet days and most variations flu/common cold/fever etc, are simply not a viable option for the only adult in the house and, thanks to my amazing allies, Anadin Extra and Lemsip Max, I’ve trundled on. But this; well I can hardly raise my head from the pillow! At 7pm, I attempt to prop myself on the sofa for the long anticipated ‘Strictly‘ final but, before the first ‘9’ paddle (Oh Craig; why not a 10?) appears on the screen, I have crawled back into bed to toss, turn and … well throw-up for the rest of the night until…

Sunday and “Ding dong merrily on high!” the sickness finally stops. I summon the energy to take and keep down a painkiller and my headache dulls to blissfully acceptable levels. Festivities are surely back on track! My eldest and I head into town, indulge in yuletide gingerbread lattes, find a few late gifts and splurge my Tesco ClubCard triumphantly on copious amounts of food and drink for the Christmas Day dinner. My mum comes over and the five of us have a hilarious evening of board games and mince pies. I do choose to wear a face mask, explaining, “I really don’t want anyone catching this disgusting sickness bug”, but that measure aside, it is holiday business as usual! In suitably high spirits, we all agree meet-up plans for the week ahead and turn in for what I hope will be a better night’s sleep.

But it is not great, because an irritating cough has set in and I am wide awake even before the 6am work text, ‘Remember to take your lateral flow test‘ pings onto the screen. Within seconds, the test goes a bright-pink, determinedly double-lined, impossible-to-miss … positive.

“Bloomin’ covid !”

Monday; very much the ‘Bleak Mid-Winter’! I drive to some god-forsaken testing centre where a disinterested youth, briefly looks up from his phone screen to pass me a PCR kit and nod his head towards a make-shift booth. Like some irrelevant miscreant, I skulk home to await my fate.

Let me be clear… I am not even remotely close to being ill any more, at worst I cough occasionally and feel mildly spaced out. Nonetheless, ‘I have covid!’ Moreover, I am an important key worker, who has ploughed through 2 years of disruption and chaos without a single day off and ‘I have covid!’ Even if that tester was completely unimpressed, can I not be allowed centre of attention status in my own home? And so, I trounce around the house like some spoiled brat, demanding star treatment from a bewildered trio of teens who do their best but, quite honestly, could carry me around in a sedan chair and serve my meals on a silver platter and I’d still find something to criticise. By the time I stomp off to bed on Monday evening, no-one is speaking to me and… I am confident that none of you would blame them…

Tuesday, brings: the PCR confirmation and me to my senses; well ‘Hark the blessed Angels sing!

I reorganise ‘Christmas mum-plans‘ with my brothers, apologise to… everyone in the house and start thinking instead about how to make holidays fun from the confines of my four walls. No traditional family film outing, but endless outstandingly awful, cheesy Christmas movie-originals on Netflix. At some point we may crack and turn out attention to worthy, unwatched classics, Citizen Kane; Breakfast at Tiffanys, Casablanca… but for now it is, unashamedly, the Christmas Prince trilogy! No lunches out, but at the touch of a button, lunches delivered in. No rushing around to perfect table trimmings or stocking-filler gifts, but … loads of time together, three cheers and Fa la la la la for my board games and …. a very welcome change of pace.

I am super-lucky, I know, to have such a mild dose. Be it the variance of Omicron, or my recent booster or just a fortunate roll of the dice, I am very grateful that I am not poorly, as so many friends and work colleagues have been with this wretched virus. And I will be glad to get out! When one of my brothers sends news of the reduction in isolation time to 7 days, I almost break the land-speed record to dig my box of LFTs out from under the bed and cross everything for a negative test (no joy yet alas!) But until I get my ticket to freedom, I will concede that sitting out the frenzy of the pre-Christmas prep has certain advantages. I may have to live without bread sauce on the 25th and have frozen peas instead of parsnips… but quite frankly I am struggling to remember why that was ever important ….

Partying… at the Whip and Kitten!

Wednesday 8 December 2021

‘A Christmas gathering?

Why, I hardly dare utter the phrase! But in a week when stories of illegal 2020 lockdown parties in Downing Street rock central government to its very core, our work team also head out, though in our case is actually is, for our first festive celebration together in 2 long years. Our work meal popped onto the calendar last weekend; I’m blogging now because it took me this long to recovery from a rather drink fuelled evening… that ended up in The Whip and Kitten

So how does it feel to be out on a work event after all this time? Well firstly, fellow single parents, getting out of the house is still as much of a challenge as ever. I somehow manage to wash my hair, dust down my frock and root out a bit of lippy, whilst face-timing one daughter about some University issue, picking Small boy up from Youth Orchestra and hearing about my mum’s entire week as she arrives to take my son off for the night. ‘Is it really worth the effort?‘, I wonder, looking longingly at the comfy couch and thinking how much easier it would be just to collapse and turn on the TV.

Nonetheless, by 7:30 pm I am ready and, in my eyes every bit as magical as a horse and carriage, one of my colleagues draws up to give me a lift in their Ford Galaxy. And from this point forward, the trappings, the grind and the relentless routine of parenthood are very much cast aside. Beaming at her fellow passengers, another workmate fishes some pink cans out of a large bag,

“Gin and Tonic anyone?

It heralds the start of a lovely, and yes very merry, evening. Food and chat, drinks and even belly dancing for one of the group! And talk is of life and love and Christmas; all of which makes a fantastic change. The grimness of work throughout a global pandemic, has robbed us, in so many ways, of the chance to relax with workmates, to unwind and converse about things outside of the job, with its stresses and sometimes heartbreaking strains. I couldn’t be more thankful that I resisted the temptation of my couch and made the effort to come out, because socialising is fun, and, as the old adage tells us, ‘laughter is the best medicine’ for those times when we are feeling jaded, sad and blue.

Does that explain how we end up at The Whip and Kitten? It is certainly an eye-catching, with a-hint-of-sauciness name! Can I confess that I cannot recall how it happens, what the hour is, nor who is still left as we are shown to a table in the dimly lit establishment.

“Is it a burlesque place?” someone whispers in my ear.

Having since checked out their website, I think that yes, occasionally, they do invite various dance acts to perform in the venue, but also musicians and comedians. In essence, and certainly on our evening, it is a bar, I can assure you that the cocktails are delicious and hope I shall return soon.

I suppose that, however, will depend on new variants and Boris … I fear they may prove a more lethal concoction than my final Manhattan…

Running with headphones…

Saturday 2 October 2021

Just in from my first ever run with headphones! Bloomin’ brilliant and … why have I never done this before?

Why indeed? For me, there are two reasons and the first is quite serious. It is about safety; women’s safety. Several years ago, I was talking running with one of my friends and she told me that she had ditched the ear buds after being mugged by a man who had attacked her from behind and she had not ‘heard him coming’. And sadly, particularly in the week when the news is dominated by the heartbreaking testimonials from the Sarah Everard trial and female fear becomes, again, the topic of much media debate, my friend is not alone. From the NBC articles in 2018, Scared to run alone? Women runners share their best safety tip, running without earphones, in certain situations, comes in at number two.

“One important thing I have changed in my running routine is that unless I am around a lot of people or running on the boardwalk during the day, I no longer put headphones on,”

Christie Maruka, a fitness enthusiast who runs/speed walks daily

The second, I can only put down to the frantic nature and financial strains of single parenthood. For years, I simply could not afford a phone that had an earphone port! As for one that could play music or understood what a podcast was; well that was an even longer wait. My kids had them, as cherished birthday or Christmas present but for their poor old mum (let those violins play now!) there was no-one in my life who combined caring enough and earning enough to bestow such a gift upon me. But about 3 years ago, as technology advanced and prices fell, I did finally treat myself to a device that coped with more than just ‘calling and texting’ and could in fact take pictures and play sounds.

But that was several years ago; why the delay until today to finally attach a pair headphones? It’s time. Time for me to stop and learn how. If you are a single parent your entire life, it often feels, has no space for you. Frequently, you inhabit domains where you are the only adult and, hence, the first port of call for solving problems for everyone else. Amidst helping with homework, revision plans, clubs, friends, exam stress, health, future study decisions, driving lessons …. and so on you simply drain of the motivation to stand still and explore ways to make your own life a little bit easier or nicer.

So what changed this morning? Work panic … that’s what! Our new boss has introduced the team to weekly readings from book on leadership psychology. Last weekend, I left my copy at work and had to make my excuses at the Monday meeting and, as I wake up this morning it hits me that I have done exactly the same thing again! Yikes! What to do? My Kindle is dead and the only charger is now in Edinburgh with Prom-dress daughter. So I type ‘audio book’ into Google and 30 minutes later I: am enrolled on a 30 day free trial with Audible; have scrabbled around the house to find an only slightly damaged pair of headphones; have laced up my trainers and am ready to go. Necessity… very clearly the ‘mother of invention’ on this October morning!

And what of the safety worries? Well it is 9:30am and I do only run on busy roads, so I decide that it is the perfect situation to try and chip away at some of the limiting fears that can impede my life as a woman. In fact, my logical mind interrupts, road safety is likely to be a bigger peril to avoid today. I say my logical mind but it would be more honest to admit that I did recently read Paula Radcliffe explaining that,

“I actually don’t listen to music outside when I run. I prefer to be aware of what’s going on and in tune with my surroundings. Keeping an eye out for bikes or dogs coming out of nowhere, I like to be aware of that!”

Paula Radcliffe 2019

Whatever the reason, I set the volume to sensible level that still lets the background noise in, and set off.

And I love it. Both the run and the ‘reading’ fly by like never before. I definitely on the road to conversion, already wondering ‘what next?’ ; when I finish this book. Mmmm, maybe music …