Tuesday, 22 March 2011


My garden is looking increasingly colourful as all the bulbs I planted last year and the year before come bursting through: today I spotted a weeny teeny daffodil which I didn't even know was there!  I still have a load of plants to transplant from the old pond area to elsewhere in the garden, and the irises (well, I think that's what they were anyway) are already over - but then you're meant to transplant them, apparently 'in the green'.  I wonder if any bluebells will come up this year: early yet for them but last year they all came up blind, which was disappointing.  Wouldn't it be fantastic if this year I had a sort of blue mist effect like I used to see in Whippendell Woods in Watford when cycling or running down there?

It's very difficult to remain downheartened for too long when the sun's out and spring is in the air.  I feel low about my singing, but after all that is only one element of my life: and the Baby's increasingly cheeky smile and baby coos and chuckles beat everything.

(photo taken Feb.)

Yesterday - the spring equinox - was Oldest Son's 7th birthday and as a treat school and I let him have a day off and I took him to the Great North Museum in Newcastle.  It's fab., though because I had to take the Baby as well I did spend a lot of time feeding the latter, much to the disgust of Oldest Son.  The idea had been in part to make up to him for the fact that his nose has been put a bit out of joint since the Baby came along and he's had less attention, though both he and Daughter do seem genuinely to love the Baby.  Oldest Son particularly seems to be calming down and being quite responsible towards the Baby, especially as the latter will now look at him and smile in an 'your my older brother and I look up to you' sort of way.

The sun was glorious and a warm 14 degrees over in Newcastle - back over this side of the country we were down to 11 degrees.  Today here has been 'balmy with a bit of coolness in the air'.  I could have gone out in the garden to move some more plants but I also had emails and so forth to catch up on and so the opportunity passed.

It would have been the day for a run, trying out the 'new' buggy, but the opportunity for that also passed.  I guess I should just be hard-hearted and skip paying the bills and so forth but somehow housework, sending an email around to the choir to check they know there's no practice next week, etc., seemed more of a priority.  Or maybe I was just being lazy....  After my run with Running Friend P. on Sunday, which I thought was quite a success, I really should build on the fact that I'm not as unfit as I thought I might be, and I don't have much excuse to keep exercising and to lose the baby weight.

The Woman article finally got published today.  It's not as bad as I had feared, although there were bits which were completely made up (I've never mentioned anything about the school run being anything like Benny Hill).  At least it means that in 6 weeks' time there should be a cheque in the post.  The journalist who introduced me to Woman is now going to contact Femail.  We'll see....

It would be just as well if I got some money as I'm overdrawn more than I expected (the birthday present I ordered my Mum from M&S has not been sent out as funds weren't available to pay for it), I have a piano repair to pay for and I'd also like to have a decent (50th) birthday party later in the year.  Along these lines, I really do need to find a job by about mid-August so I must get around to revising my CV and recording a couple of demo discs.  Perhaps if I get some money from things other than Maternity Allowance or Child Benefit I could use it to pay to for the Baby to have a couple of days, or half days, at nursery, the problem being of course that at the moment I'm trying to do everything and look after the Baby at the same time.  I do think 3 months is too young to start nursery, but a few hours once in a while would just give me some freedom to try to get some future employment generated.

I would also be far better off not having to do so much housework.  I hope Husband never reads this particular blog posting as today I did something which he had warned me against and which I know he'll be annoyed about.  The Christmas before last (2009) he gave me a Norwegian jumper.  I've always liked them, although admittedly this one would have been better if it had been longer, been a jumper rather than a cardigan, and if it had been designed specifically for a woman rather than a man.  But I know that Husband had put a bit of thought into choosing it and also that it was expensive, and when he gave it to me he said I'd have to be careful washing it (I have a track record of shrinking delicates and breaking glasses).  Well, today I put it in a very gentle wash in the washing machine.... except it wasn't gentle enough.  It is now too small for me, slightly felt-like in appearance, and a bit on the big side still for Oldest Son.  Oh dear.  I think I shall hope that he doesn't notice it on the drying rack (in the Utility Room, so he's unlikely to look at it unless he's looking for running kit - not on that particular rack - or if he notices as he goes past to the loo or to turn the heating on) and then quietly send it off to the next of the many charity bag collections which comes along.  Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

That's all for now as I need to get the children to bed (the Baby is already in bed asleep: he is so very, very good - you put him in his bed, he objects for a few minutes, and then he conks out).  Oldest Son is probably already asleep in front of the science programme he wanted to watch on TV but Daughter is leaping around eating apples.  Tomorrow Husband is helping with the school run, which is good, and I think I'll take the Baby to Aquatots so long as it doesn't coincide with his telling me he's starving hungry.  Au revoir!

Sunday, 20 March 2011


It's been a somewhat frustrating week as the Baby hasn't slept much during the day, but on the other hand the recompense for this has been that he has slept from his bedtime right through until 5a.m.-ish.  Not only is that quite a stint for a baby who is not yet 3 months old, but also he's quite good at going to sleep in his cot in the evening even if he finds it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep during the day.  5a.m. is not brilliant as the rest of the household gets going sometime between 6 and 6.30, so I have no chance to fall back to sleep - but on the other hand I've gone to bed at about 8.30p.m. a couple of times.  This again doesn't leave much time for doing anything however - or for making phone calls.

Bristol Friend S. sent me an email today and I really wanted just to pick up the phone and have a chat, but the opportunity hasn't arisen: sorry Bristol Friend S.  Some day!  I did try to phone my sister for the first time in months last week but her phone was engaged and then the Baby got hungry.  I also phoned my mother but she was out and my Dad was in, so I was able to pass on the message that a parcel had arrived (Oldest Son is 7 tomorrow) but didn't have a long chat. 

I met up with H-of-the-beautiful-blog last week (if any of you haven't yet visited it, you really should) and asked New-Post-Natal-Friend E along as well.  I really enjoyed chatting with them and the babies were great, and they seemed to get on well, which was nice.  There's something very satisfying about your friends being friends, or potentially friends, with each other as well as with you.  I think I perhaps just like the feeling of a big network of friends who all know each other and get on together and who arrange to do things together when I'm not around.

Unfortunately I let some other friends down though.  The Baby had a cold so I couldn't risk going to see a former work colleague who has cancer, and having said I'd meet up with some other former work colleagues afterwards (and even suggested a venue) I just felt too knackered.  I then felt bad - and I hope they won't all be really offended - that I then got a text from Husband who suggested I go into Carlisle to see him for lunch (he offered to pay), which meant that he was able to cuddle the Baby for a bit (not that the others couldn't have done: most people are more than willing to cuddle him, especially if he rewards them with one of his glorious cheeky smiles).  Somehow just driving into Carlisle and being bought lunch just seemed less effort than driving down the motorway to Penrith, but what I should have done if I'd had the sense was go to bed.  Instead, as the Baby stayed asleep for a while for a change, I ended up doing some ironing.

The ironing pile remains fairly constantly of pretty mountainous proportions, and the washing seems endless.  What with Husband's soggy running kit, sweaty gym kit, the Baby's frequent changes due to milk posseting etc., and then the children's inclination to get anything they possibly can on their clothes (mud, food, paint....), the washing machine is kept pretty busy.

During all of this however I did manage to practice a bit for Carlisle Festival (I am so glad I didn't decide to do lots of new pieces); email two organisations about the possibility of singing in schools and being paid to do so; began to revise my 'alternative' CV; and finish off draft one of my Opera programme for Radio Cumbria (I hope they like it - I'm not sure whether to phone S.G. to see what he thinks or not).

Carlisle Festival I have very mixed feelings about.  Having surprised myself and done well in the duet class last year, this year the duet floundered rather: though I think we both felt we hadn't really had enough practice, and I think next year one of the duets I'd do will be one which my particular 'duet partner' (duettist?) and I performed at the kids' school rather than the one we did this year.

Feeling brave - or rash - this year I entered 5 solo classes as well.  For every entry bar one I obtained 84 marks - a 'commended' performance (the other got 83 which is a merit) - but by the end of the morning session I felt very amateur and wondered whether I really should be there.  My singing teacher had also entered some classes though and had heard me, and she said I should, which made me feel a bit better and I started the afternoon feeling more relaxed and more inclined just to enjoy it: after all I enjoy performing, in a rather masochistic way.  However my first performance of the afternoon was Vaughan Williams The Call, which I have always found incredibly difficult to remember the words to.  Sure enough I fluffed them!  I then, in the second class, sang Mozart's Porgi Amor, which I felt was the thing I sang best all day: but I still got 84 marks.  Hey ho.  I do of course also feel disappointed that I didn't come 2nd or even win a class (I came 2nd in the unaccompanied folk song class, but there were only 3 entries), but I have to admit that I could see that the other performances were better than mine.

The question is, of course, whether or not I could do better.  I feel that I was more emotional - in a positive way - when pregnant and that both my vocal performances and also my writing were far more energetic and more full of emotional expression.  Is this due solely to pregnancy hormones or is it that I'm now just tired?  I'm not aware of feeling too tired but on the other hand I lose my temper with the children less, just because I don't have the energy to!  So I guess it's a case of seeing what happens over the next few months, as the Baby gets more settled: and perhaps seeing how I do in my Grade 8.  Maybe the examiner just happened to like my voice for my Grade 7 and it was a one-off.  It's so difficult: singing mattered so much to me at University but I was pretty rubbish at it; now it's sprung back into my life, with almost no invitation or effort initially from me, and seduced me all over again. Again I've fallen in love with singing and therefore want to do well: but it's a fickle master it seems.  I was so pleased with my Grade 7 result but now I feel somewhat despondent.

On the other hand Running Friend P. came up this afternoon and we went for what was probably a 6-mile run.  Considering this was only my second run in about 9 months I was pretty pleased with myself.  The thing I shall have to work on is being able to talk while I run, as I've always been able to but it was harder today.  I've also been given a 3-wheeler off-road buggy, the same as I bought myself when I had Son No.1, so I'm hoping to get out on some more strenuous off-road walks with the Baby and perhaps also run with it. The book Husband bought me All Terrain Pushchair Walks (North Lakeland) will now get some use - and the buggy has arrived just in time for the spring and summer too!

Meanwhile singing and French lessons both begin on 30th March....

Friday, 11 March 2011


The Baby has had a particularly unsettled week.  He seems to have been talking to his sister, who as a baby rarely slept during the day, as he's not been sleeping much in the daytime.  Yesterday he hardly slept at all and I even resorted to going on a 'magical mystery tour', about which more later.  I think he must be on a growth spurt as he has been feeding as if he's afraid that milk supplies are about to dry up: 37oz in a day as opposed to what it says 'on the label', i.e. 30oz: and not vomiting much of it up either.

BUT joy of joys (although doubtless a one-off), last night he slept from 8.30pm to 4.30am.  OK, it would have been better if it had been 10.30pm to 6.30am but he seems to have established a bedtime for himself so I'm happy to go with the bedtime for now as he's bound to start sleeping through the night sooner or later, and he only needs to sleep for a couple more hours to be there.  I'm sure tonight will be a totally different kettle of fish but it was nice to have unbroken sleep for as long as I did, and it was a pleasant surprise to look at the clock and find that it was getting on for morning rather than only just past midnight.

The weather has been most peculiar this week.  On Wednesday we had every type of weather except hail or thunderstorms; yesterday we had every type of weather except snow or thunderstorms; today we've had every type of weather except hail or thunderstorms again and the sleety snow which fell early this evening even made a damp whiteish layer on the ground for a while.  Every day I've thought that the children and I would 'walk home from school' (really from the Lane End pub) or go for a walk at Talkin Tarn, but the Baby and the weather between them have conspired against us.  We also intended to go to the after-school service which the local church has started holding each Tuesday, but the Baby was too unsettled.  Older Son was really upset to miss out on the pancakes.....

Yesterday having had an afternoon which alternated bright sunlight with pouring rain, I decided we'd go to buy Daughter some new shoes after school as her other pair has completely disappeared so her footwear for school has been quite odd (she hasn't yet gone in or come home in slippers).  A trip to Off the Wall became necessary first as the Baby wanted some milk, and it was an excuse to get someone else to do the cooking and clearing up for the children's tea rather than my trying to get them some tea and feed the Baby at the same time (impossible: something has to give and it's normally their tea, as I can't stand leaving the Baby crying.  It's nothing to do with discipline or the Baby having to learn or the fact that you should pick babies who are crying up because they generally only cry for a reason, even if it's boredom: it's because I can't stand the din.  Daughter's piercing loud cry as a baby was enough to make me want to do something quite drastic (thank goodness I never did and she is still here and well today) - the Baby is, luckily, somewhat quieter but I'd still rather he didn't cry).

So after their tea we headed to Hamiltons, the shoe shop (which I have to recommend to anyone with children reading this as they really do take care over measuring the children's feet and making sure they have correctly fitted shoes).  However having satisfactorily come away with a pair of purple shoes with flowers on and bright pink wellies with purple soles, both purchased at a reduced price, the children proceeded to squabble and the Baby - who by now was completely over-tired - started crying again.  I decided we'd go out in the car on a magical mystery tour, and having mentioned the ford, which got the approval of both children, then had in the back of my mind that maybe we could go up to Bewcastle, in the real heart of Border Reivers country.

The ford was running quite high so we had a big debate about whether we'd get through or not and whether we should, both children (the Baby was by now, mercifully, asleep) insisting that we should risk it.  In fact it really was quite high - though not dangerously so - as the outside-air-temperature sensors started playing up after we'd gone through and for a while I got some weird readings.  We headed up a road which went through Askerton where we saw some llamas or alpacas (I wasn't sure which they were but the children were insistent they were one or another because of the length of their necks, and I'm sure they know) and then to Bewcastle.  By now the relatively bare, rolling countryside was bathed in golden evening sunshine as if we were just getting to the end of the most glorious spring day, and the children were happily on the look-out for a haunted house.  We went through some beautiful but remote places - such as, on the way back, Kirkcambeck - with some attractive old properties, but a sense of realism reminded me how cut off this area could get in snow in the winter.  I think I've been watching too much daytime TV - Homes under the Hammer, Escape to the Country, Wreck or Ready - as I keep wanting to move house.  The trouble is I'd need a considerably larger budget than we could feasibly garner at present.

Today the Baby and I met up with Running Friend P., who hadn't seen him since he was a couple of days old, saw some people at my former office, and then went to Keswick for lunch with the friend who adopted a girl this time last year.  The daughter is about a year older than mine, and the friend had brought some of the clothes she had grown out of for mine.  When we got home this evening there were lots of excited exclamations as each item of clothing was taken out of the bag and admired.  Daughter's summer wardrobe is sorted!  I'm sure there are some clothes in her wardrobe that she has hardly ever worn, and some that she will never wear: she has far more clothes than I have.

The Baby also has lots of clothes, and having sorted out the 3-6 month clothes for him (he's been eating so much he's already in the smaller end of size 3-6 month clothes now, having mostly grown out of 0-3 months) I realised that all the ones we'd been passed on from the little boy down the road are actually not needed, as we've been given so many.  We've had two more parcels this week, one with a pair of 'tigger' slippers for him which are dead cute (but fall off rather easily, unfortunately).

I was going to write my Opera Programme this evening and I really ought to do some singing practice, but despite the not-too-bad night last night the fact remains that being awake at 4.30 a.m. for an hour is not a normal part of an 8-hour sleep, and I was awoken again by Husband's alarm going at 6.30, so I think I shall do the Baby's bottles and hang up the washing and go to bed.  I am getting very bad-tempered - impatient, frustrated, resentful - and it must be a lot to do with tiredness.  I just wish there was more time to get everything done that I want to do, but then there never is enough time - nor money - for absolutely everything.  At least I'm planning on living to 100, so I shall do my extra degree in French and Italian joint honours some day: I should still get 30-odd years post-retirement.  Roll on the days when I get a new job paying a huge amount and whereby I only need to work a few hours a week.  Everybody's dream!

Monday, 7 March 2011


Two glasses of red wine and I can hardly keep my eyes open....

The last few days have been particularly positive in terms of people.  Ex-work-friend L. and I had a walk in Keswick last week, as well as coffee in Booths beforehand and then lunch in somewhere called the Square Orange or something similar.  The Baby even gave her one of his smiles just as we were about to leave, which I was particularly pleased about.  A couple of days later after she'd read my Grumpy Cow blog post I got a really supportive and understanding email from her, and also from ex-work-friend A.  How on earth can anyone be down in the dumps for long when there are people who care about you and are supportive of you out there?  Surely life must be about the people you meet along the way, not about how much you've earned or how high up the career ladder you have climbed.  And being unemployed and then on maternity allowance has made me realise how much I don't need to buy (though I'd still like a decent off-road 3-wheeler buggy, and have to pay for my piano repair.  I was rather relying on the money from Woman but they really do seem to be the most dilatory and disorganised publication in the world).

I also met a kindred-spirit-Mum at Baby Massage.  It turned out that her two other children are at the same school as mine, and we had her girl to play with my girl on Friday after school.  It was wildly exciting for both of them and chaotic for us, but it was great that they got on so well.  Older Son meanwhile had his Very Best Friend from School to tea, and they spent most of their time on the X-box: I wasn't a very good mother, leaving them just to get on with it, but they were happy, quiet and out of the way - at least until Daughter and her new friend went and turned the X-Box off in the middle of a game.

I saw Kindred Spirit Mum again at Baby Massage today and afterwards we went for a walk round Talkin Tarn.  It was a beautiful day but also she lived in Blackheath for a while, and so did I years ago, so we were able to compare London notes.  She's only moved up here recently and I think has some worries about whether it's the right move.  I recommended Wife in the North to her (which besides being a book is still also a blog, http://www.wifeinthenorth.com/).  Unfortunately I can't remember what I've done with the copy I was given.....

Baby Massage was also a success today in that the Baby had had a feed earlier and therefore was awake but happy and so experienced the entire massage, unlike last week when he only got a short bit on his back with his clothes on, at the end, or the first week when he got the beginnings and endings of leg massages for the same reason.  Today he seemed to quite enjoy it and was certainly relaxed afterwards: rather than being his usual wriggly noisy self he just fell asleep.

On Saturday I had a rehearsal with the accompanist for Carlisle Festival.  He is an incredibly accomplished pianist - he used to be a repetiteur for English National Opera - so not only could he accompany well but he also sings and is used to singers, so helped with some of the aspects of the singing.  His room had a wooden floor which I think really helped the acoustics: I felt as if I sang Porgi Amor better than I've ever sung it.  Fingers crossed for the Festival!

On Friday I had seen a singer friend and her Mum, which was also great.  The Baby had, unfortunately, slept throughout, but we were able to talk singing and music to our heart's content.  They're organising a concert for mid-April and have asked me to sing in two trios, so I'm hoping I'll be able to.  Husband certainly has no objections.  Wandering around the shops afterwards I bumped into several more people I know from choir: and then at the Lanercost Festival Chorus rehearsal yesterday lots of other people were asking how the Baby was and how I was.  I was pleased with myself for cycling there and back, and especially for cycling up the pretty steep hill from Lanercost back to Brampton.  It was jolly cold, even at 4.30pm, so I didn't even work up a sweat!

One of the Mums at school and I were comparing notes on how important exercise is and how good it makes you feel, both physically and emotionally.  How can people bear not to be fit and healthy?  It's sometimes really difficult to fit in, and I'm not sure I'd go with her suggestion of cycling with the Baby in a trolley on the back (I think I'm just a bit too worried about the speeding idiots on the road), but I definitely feel better when I can exercise most days: even if it's just getting around the Tarn in the sunshine like today.  After all, that's what living in Cumbria is about.  Yes, careers come to a fairly grinding halt (or at least take a bit of a backwards step), but what's better than taking your children for a walk along the ridge with Scotland to your left and woods laden with snowdrops and beech-lined rides to your right?

Thursday, 3 March 2011


I once bought some pyjamas which were called 'Grumpy Cow' or something: I gave a pair to my sister, whose boyfriend thought they were very appropriate.

This morning it was me who was grumpy.  The Baby had woken me up at 3.45 a.m. (which was good going from 8p.m. last night) but then wanted to stay awake, and refused to go back to sleep in his cot.  Instead I ended up with him sleeping on his tummy on me, which seems to be the preferred position when he's very snuffly.  The problem is, of course, that I don't then sleep properly as I'm so afraid he's going to roll off or get his nose stuck and not be able to breathe, or something similar.  Oh well: I guess he'll grow out of this snuffliness and in less than 4 months' time he'll be in his own room anyway.

So I was grumpy.  I was annoyed with the Baby for being noisy and not settling back to sleep: I was annoyed with Husband for not bringing me up a cup of coffee and for going on about wanting to go walking with some friends the week that we'd talked about going to one of my friend's 50th parties and then to Bristol to see friends and my family.  The thought of long trips with the three children and without him is not an appealing one.  He then was talking about 'when' he works in Aberdeen (i.e. how the older two will have to be good at getting up and ready in the mornings), and how my giving him a lift to work is a bit silly.  I pointed out to him that if he leaves early for work and gets back late because of work and whatever fitness thing he's done, that it's a long day for me (though I expressed it in a rather more grumpy fashion).  But - and I know this is partly the tiredness talking - how come Men always get to do what They want?  How come they think about themselves first and everyone else second?  If I had a long day at work I would probably miss doing my training because I'd feel that I had to get home to see everyone, and then I'd be cross because I'd be feeling unfit.

Which of course, I am at the moment, and with a sticking out stomach still as well, although there are signs that I am slowly beginning to lose the final stone.  Fingers crossed.  Being over weight and having little money are two conditions which wind me up considerably.

In case the message hasn't yet got across, I was not in a good mood.  When I dropped the children off the Reception class teacher, who is lovely, asked how I was: I said I was grumpy and she gave me a hug.  That brightened the day a little.  Then driving home from dropping husband off, the early morning fog lifted on the brow of the hill just before I descended down to our road, and the sun came out: so that made me feel better still.  By the time I'd taken the Baby to the Doctors for his first lot of immunisations (he cried real tears despite the fact that his legs are now fat enough that you'd think he wouldn't feel a thing) and had a chat with a very nice 6'3" mother of two who I met there, and I'd then gone to Off the Wall for a take away coffee and had a chat there, and then had a brief chat in Cranstons as the lady who served me recognised the Baby from when Husband takes him in, I felt back to normal and ready to tackle the world again.  Unfortunately I didn't have time to do anything further on my opera programme today, but at least I've started it.  'Working' with a baby at home is not easy; particularly not when it's one who wants to feed every 2 - 3 hours.

However we've had two very pleasant days which have been more-or-less just at home.  I've watched Bargain Hunt twice, Cash in the Attic once, and a couple of home-buying/moving programmes.  I do wish I could get some TV presenting work.... In addition I should be rejoicing that both children got good reports from their teachers at parents' evening: Daughter was described as 'exceptional' and Older Son is just above where he ought to be for writing and well above for Reading and Numeracy.  The Baby has a bit to live up to: though he also shows signs of being a cheeky monkey, if his smile is anything to go by.

The Baby's bottles need filling with cooled boiled water and then it's bed for me.  Husband has at least begun our mammoth pile of ironing whilst watching TV (he probably won't do the whole lot but he's started I think).  Goodness knows what sort of night I'll have as the Baby has slept most of the day as an after-effect of the jabs.  But only tonight and then it's the weekend and maybe Husband will do a night with the Baby so I can get an uninterrupted night's sleep.  Good night!