Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Look down and you fall down

A constant reminder being yelled at me when I ride a horse, "Look up!" the instructor shouts "Look down and you'll fall down!"

I am told to look ahead, to look far off past the arena and towards the fields, I am told when jumping to look for the next fence when in the middle of jumping the present one. Look ahead, land and go, kick on and my absolute favourite:

"Throw your heart over the fence and bloody well jump and gallop to catch it up!"

Yes, that was said to me by some old gal out in Africa, she was more horse than human and hard as they come. Good piece of advice though, and not just for riding horses at silly speeds through the wilderness.

Sometimes life gets hard, it's very easy to see the glass half empty. I've been no stranger to blueness and even bouts of blackness, finding it difficult to see the beauty in life - because once you're down, when you have fallen down, it is so damn hard to get back up again.

I genuinely think this weather is affecting everyone, there is glumness all around, the cold is incessant and cruel, the winds not just biting but chewing you up and spitting you out. The promise of Spring and Summer seems to be a lie, the weather has done this to us before - promised a season and failed to deliver it.

We've got to look up, keep our heads high, have something to look forward to, look for a project when you in the middle of one, don't stop to contemplate the crapness or the fear - and certainly don't look down, as you may just fall down. And sometimes it can bloody hurt.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Remember this?



It's only fair that I report back on my first ever dressage competition that I did yesterday. I suspect that 0.3% of you readers are actually interested in this - it being an odd sort of hobby to do at the weekend.

The cold was particularly biting and bone aching, the sort that whipped your lips into blood-red chappedness in an instant, the sort that had you uncontrollably chattering and shivering, the sort that goes so deep that even my internal organs were screaming for a duvet. Goddamn it was cold. So if us humans were chilly and jumping up and down on the spot to keep warm, I guess it was reasonable that the horses felt the same and acted in a similar way.

For those of you not in the know, dressage is a controlled and beautiful discipline where the horse and rider act in unison to perform a number of movements in an arena - the test being judged on its fluency, straightness, suppleness and rhythm. It looks so darn easy, trotting in circles and straight lines. Let me tell you its not, and its doubly not when the horse is cold and fly-bucks around the warm up arena. I did well to stay on but you don't get judged for that.

(I came 7th with 60% if anyone is interested)

Friday, 22 March 2013

Home birth

A loves babies. She loves real life ones and pictures of babies. She mostly loves her baby dolls who each have names and habits both individual and interesting. A is seven years old and still dearly loves her baby buggy and baby accessories, she rushes in from school and wraps her babies in a swaddle blanket while she wolfs her much-needed snack, offering baby Florence some as she eats.

"How did Albert come out?" A wondered idly as she munched her Friday Fun cake today, in the farm shop cafe. Albert of 3 weeks old being recently introduced to her in the school playground.

"How do you think, darling? Out of his mummy's vagina, " I replied, fairly nonchalantly as A knows all about how babies enter the world - although she has no idea how they get in.

"Mummmmmmmyyyy!! - Don't say that so loudly, everybody is staring at us," her little cheeks pinking slightly, a peak of the teenage embarrassment to come perhaps.

"I meant, home birth, water birth, dragged-out birth...?" she continued.

"Ooooh, I think Albert entered the world in a hospital on a bed darling,"

She took in the information and satisfied by the answer, continued to demolish her cake. For I have talked about birth as such a normal event that she is completely unfazed by it - grant you I do teach antenatal classes for a living. What I do love is that home birth and water birth are in her vocabulary early, I have never talked negatively about birth while at the same time being appropriately honest with her. She has even witnessed birth by accident around at a neighbours house a few years ago. When the woman made the deep, low birth noises A looked quizzically at me.

"Don't worry children!" I calmed, "She is just having a baby, go play shops or something - the baby will be here in a minute"

And after that the birthing noises didn't bother her any more.

Keep it normal, talk to girls early about birth, be positive and empowering and maybe we will start to allay the deep seated fears surrounding birth. Lets bring back birth to the women, where it belongs. And watch this fabulous documentary about our local Independent midwife, Virginia Howes.

I challenge you not to be moved by the simplicity, beauty and normality that birth can be.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Going back in time

I finally found the boots in the attic, all covered with a white damp mould and stiff with disuse.  A wipe and a soak with some leather dressing has seemingly done the trick and I can just about squeeze my calves into their hard black uppers. The jacket still fits and is even a little roomy - my bust having decreased considerably with children and age. And today I went to the tack shop and revelled in purchasing some cream jodhpurs, a white stock and some cream gloves. I think I look the part, my children think it's hilarious.

"You've gone back in time Mummy! You look like a little girl!" squealed A when she saw me.

She's right though, I haven't worn smart riding gear for nearly 25 years and this weekend I have been asked if I would like to do a dressage competition.  I can't tell you how nervous and excited I am. I feel childish and giggly, it means I get to groom a horse until he shines, plait his mane into neat little balls showing off his chestnut neck, wipe his nose, clean his socks and then dress myself up in a costume traditional and faintly ridiculous. In fact the whole thing is faintly ridiculous.

And I can't bloody wait!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Spotty biscuits

It's been a bit of a week down here in Sussex, what with all the snow and chaos. Tuesday was so bad that we had snow drifts and cars were abandoned on the sides of the road while commuters struggled to get home. I am pleased to say that the local farmer even brought his lambs indoors so they were out of the elements, I could sleep at night knowing that - soppy bugger that I am.

Predictably the children had a day off school, thankfully I wasn't working so we all had a home day, a snow day. They drove each other mad, bounced off the walls and needed constant entertaining. It was time to attempt cooking - I hate cooking, it's not fun - it's a necessary chore. The kids, however absolutely love it. And I loved it as a child as well, standing on a stool at the cooker to make flapjacks. I remember loving watching the butter as it melted and stirring it with a wooden spoon before adding the syrup and rolled oats. Mum was always there, baking something or other with radio 2 droning in the background. Happy rainy days. It wasn't fair to deprive the girls of the same experience.

The problem is is that I am utterly crap at baking - remember these? But these dotty cookies came out a treat.

Not only did they look good, they tasted good and there was enough little stages in the making process for both children to have a go. The kids were both shocked and delighted, shocked that something actually 'worked' and delighted they tasted nice. And I felt a teeny bit proud as well.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

I was lookin' back to see if you were lookin' back at me to see me lookin' back at you

I was. Looking back at me that is. At the blooming hairdressers yesterday.

Getting a haircut is a once a year job for me, mainly because it's so expensive and I really don't care that much - a quick hack of the fringe with the kitchen scissors suffices. I'd forgotten how I hate the whole process, the hair wash was nice and the head massage dreamy but then having to sit in front of myself for over an hour was awful. I can't look at me, I don't recognise the older me staring back. The one with the bags under her eyes, the wrinkles, deep grooves if I smile and grey, sallow skin. I looked down at the floor only to be politely told to keep my head up, so I settled on shutting my eyes, feigning tiredness and listened the the banal talk of the salon.

I'm trying to reflect on my reflection, what it is I don't like, why I'm shocked that the ageing process has taken hold - even my hands have brown age spots and are dry and wrinkly. It is only to be expected, reaching 40 years old this year and having spent most of my life outdoors, abroad and without sun protection. I wouldn't want to look 20 anyway, all pert and bouncy.

I suppose I need to learn to love my wrinkles and creases, the plum-red thread veins and patchy brown hands. I need to embrace the grey and not cover it, be proud I've made it this far with many a story to tell - and my body has been an excellent and most faithful vehicle enabling that, for which I am very grateful.

 (for you 90's people who were wondering what the song lyric was in the title of this post)

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Spring has sprung

The daffodils have all opened at once and the windowsills are singing of Spring. Strangers are smiling and motorists slow down to pass a field of freshly born lambs who know no different, the sun being as it should on their little woolly backs. The air smells of warmth and promise and being cooped-up inside feels like a prison. If you look closely in the garden, new shoots emerge from sleepy perennials, keen to see the light and begin their journey to showy colourful flowers. Spring is on its way and I have never been so grateful, I think everyone feels the same this year. The winter has been difficult and harsh, wet like no other and depressing in its relentlessness. Dare we start to get excited for the months ahead?

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Simple Sundays

The lamb, being slow-roasted with rosemary and garlic, wafts around the house. The children are clean with tangle-free hair after being dunked in their Sunday bath - they do get washed a few more times in a week but the Sunday ritual being the main event. He's ironing his shirts ready for the week ahead and I've just done some hand washing, a yearly task. You don't need to know the colour of the water that came from my jumper.

Today has been a simple Sunday. A relaxing family Sunday. A free Sunday with no commitments or expenditure. A Sunday starting with a lie in, a pot of Columbian coffee and yesterdays papers. The weather looked promising enough to brave a walk, wrapped in layers and woollies we all hiked around a local but unexplored wood, stopping half way for sandwiches and chocolate. Food never tasted so good. We giggled at the mud, looked hopefully at the emerging bluebells and talked about the future as the children ran off like dogs released from their leads, coming back occasionally to check we were still there.

A Sunday like today feels restorative, cosy and warming, happy and fuzzy. Just a perfect way to set us all up for the week - and a little birdie told me the temperature is rising and that the sun may even make an appearance....